The Rietberg Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

The Rietberg Museum

Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

The Rietberg Museum in Zurich displays a world renowned collection of art from America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Peta Stamper

01 Apr 2021
Image Credit: CC / Ikiwaner

About The Rietberg Museum

The Rietberg Museum, or Museum Rietberg, is a city-run museum displaying a world renowned collection of art from non-European cultures including from America, Africa, Asia and Oceania and is located in central Zürich.

The Rietberg Museum history

During the early 1940s, the city of Zürich bought the Reiterpark and the Wesendonck Villa, formerly the home of German composer, Richard Wagner. The property had until then also been owned by the industrialist Rieter family, who sold the Villa and 68,000 metre squared of the Rieterpark for 2.9 million francs. The Villa Wesendonck was renovated between 1951-2, becoming a museum for an art collection owned by Baron von der Heydt, which he donated to the city in 1945.

The Rietberg Museum was opened on 24 May 1952, with Swiss expressionist painter Johannes Itten as director. Shortly after its founding, the museum opened an in-house publishing press, originally publishing catalogues of the Asian and African artworks housed there. The publishing expanded in the 1980s and since 1991, the museum publishes Artibus Asiae, a biannual scholarly journal on the art and archaeology of Asia.

The Rietberg Museum today

Today, the Rietberg Museum is one of the largest art museums in Switzerland, holding 23,000 objects and 37,000 ethnographic photographs within its collections, most of which can be seen by the public. The newest incarnation of the museum consists of buildings old and new, including three 19th century villas and a coach house, reflecting how the museum aims to remain current while displaying objects of the past.

The museum’s current exhibitions include ‘The Forgotten Coast’ exploring Honduran archaeology, as well as ‘Art of Prehistoric Times’ that looks at rock paintings from the Frobenius Expeditions in Africa. You can also take hours viewing the thousands of items within the von der Heydt original collection.

After perusing the galleries and travelling across the world through the museum’s exhibits, the grounds surrounding the museum make for a beautiful picnic spot.

Getting to The Rietberg Museum

Unfortunately, there is no public parking located at the museum except for disabled parking, so visitors must use public transport. To find the museum via public transport, catch Tram 7 for Wollishofen and alight at ‘Museum Rietberg’ stop, a five-minute walk to museum or get the S-Bahn to Enge station, only a ten-minute walk to the museum. Alternately, get the bus 72 for Morgental, alighting at ‘Hügelstrasse’ stop before walking six-minutes to the museum.