French-American sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle’s monumental Le Grand Oiseau de Feu Sur l’Arche (The Firebird) graces the museum's welcome plaza. Completed in 1991, The Firebird was exhibited throughout Europe and the United States before being purchased for and installed at the Bechtler in 2009.
With vibrant colors and whimsical form, The Firebird stands over 17 feet tall, weighs in at 1,433 pounds, and features a 7,500-piece mirror mosaic. It showcases the pioneering imagination and mastery of form and technique that characterize the work of Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002). And has, without question and for obvious reasons, become the iconic image of Charlotte for locals and visitors alike.
THE BECHTLER COLLECTION
THE BECHTLER FAMILY
Based in Zurich, Switzerland, Bessie and Hans Bechtler began collecting modern art in the 1950s. Over the next several decades, the couple supported and befriended many of the most influential figures in 20th-century art. They built a collection that includes work by such pioneering artists as Alexander Calder, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Julio Le Park, Pablo Picasso, Bridget Riley, Jean Tinguely, and Andy Warhol, among many others.
Andreas Bechtler, Charlotte resident and son of Bessie and Hans Bechtler, and his family gifted their portion of the Bechtler’s collection to the new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and in 2010 the Bechtler opened to the public.
Designed by award-winning Swiss architect Mario Botta, the museum showcases the collection of almost 2,000 works of art through changing exhibitions and programs.
While the museum’s permanent collection represents artists who were active mostly in Europe and the United States, the reach of these artists extends far beyond this geography, and it is the international networks and narratives of modernism that the Bechtler now celebrates.
PHOTOS FROM TOP LEFT:
Bessie and Hans Bechtler, 1954. Courtesy of the Bechtler Family.
Hans Bechtler with Alberto Giacometti in Stampa, Switzerland. Courtesy of the Bechtler Family.
Bessie and Hans Bechtler’s living room, Sonnenbergstrasse, Zürich, Switzerland, 1982. Photo: Charly Keller
Andreas Bechter with Family. L-R: Tanja Bechtler, Viviane Bechtler-Smith, Natascha Bechtler, Andreas Bechtler, and Fiona Bechtler-Levin. Courtesy of the Bechtler Family.