Klee's home town finally honours its most famous son with museum

Sixty-five years after his death, the artist Paul Klee has been honoured with a museum in his hometown of Berne.

The Paul Klee Centre, on the eastern outskirts of the Swiss city, opened yesterday and holds more than 4,000 works by the artist, including a hand puppet on show for the first time. One of the largest public collections by a single artist in the world, the museum received funding from private and public sponsors.

Alexander Klee, the artist's 65-year-old grandson, said he hoped the museum would generate a new wave of interest in Klee's work. "It became necessary, at least for me, to see the future of the family collection in a radically new light, to rethink my ideas and take on board other opinions," he said.

The hill-shaped design of the museum, complete with a wave-like roof, was conceived by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, who built the Pompidou Centre in Paris with Richard Rogers.

Mr Piano said: "Klee was one of the most prolific and complex artists of the 20th century. Because his genius was many-sided, he easily gives rise to a misunderstanding - the idea that you can interpret him in any way you choose."

Klee's daughter-in-law, Livia, and Alexander Klee launched the project in 1990 by offering the Berne authorities the works they had inherited. In return they asked the city to build a museum dedicated to Klee.

Art historians still argue over whether Klee was German or Swiss. He was born in Berne in 1879 but took his father's German citizenship and moved to Munich to study art.

When the Nazis came to power in the 1930s, his form of art was condemned as "degenerate" and he moved back to Berne. Klee applied for naturalisation in 1939 but never received it as he died in 1940.

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