A shimmering 18-foot-tall Firebird sculpture greets visitors to The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Its reflective mirrors, glass and specks of color move with the surroundings: traffic, trees, buildings and pedestrians. The phoenix-like piece by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle offers a playful introduction to the one-of-a-kind collection waiting inside the museum. The building itself is only the second in this country designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta. Botta is considered one of the world’s foremost architects whose career spans a variety of building types. He has only accepted two commissions in the United States: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Intimate in scale, delightfully arresting in its spaces and vistas and simple and elegant in its materials, the Bechtler is a jewel of a museum. The museum building is a square terra cotta tile-covered box with a cantilevered fourth-floor gallery hanging over a plaza with a column in the middle. An interior atrium creates a light-filled space inside.
The Bechtler opened its doors on January 2, 2010 and is one of several cultural facilities on Charlotte’s South Tryon Street corridor, including the Knight Theater, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, and the Mint Museum Uptown.
Whimsy and seriousness blend together in the Firebird, just as the way scale and intimacy mingle in the Bechtler collection. Included are more than 1,600 works by some of the most important and influential artists of the mid-20th century, from Expressionism to Pop art. Artists represented include MirÃ³, Giacometti, Picasso, Calder, Hepworth, Nicholson, Warhol, Tinguely, Ernst, Le Corbusier, Chillida and many others. Only a handful of these artworks have been on public view in the United States. The collection is unusually uplifting, accessible and thought provoking for museumgoers. Until 2010, the collection was privately held by the Bechtler family of Switzerland. You might be wondering who are the Bechtlers and why is the museum named after this family? Bechtler is the last name of the Swiss family who formed a substantial modern art collection over a 70-year period in Europe. Andreas Bechtler inherited a portion of the collection from his parents, Hans and Bessie Bechtler, and generously committed it to the city of Charlotte. Many of the artists were close friends of the Bechtlers. Some of the most important and fascinating works were gifts to the family by the artists themselves.
The museum would not exist without the extraordinary generosity of art patron Andreas Bechtler. Inspired by his parents, Andreas made his remarkable collection available for all to engage – whether for solace and reflection, inspiration and surprise or for challenge and self-discovery. These works and their many stories reward scores of visitors to the Bechtler. It is our hope that visitors will come to form their own relationship with this remarkable art and the influential artists who created it.
The Bechtler Museum’s mission is to share the joy and excellence of the collection so everyone can be inspired, informed and have their cultural and intellectual life enhanced. From special members-only events, Jazz at the Bechtler, School Tours, Family Days, Modernism + Film, Guest Lectures and a commitment to making the museum accessible and inclusive to those with disabilities, the Bechtler is more than a museum – it is the cultural heart of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Bechtler opened its doors on January 2, 2010 and is one of several cultural facilities on Charlotte’s South Tryon Street corridor, including the Knight Theater, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, and the Mint Museum Uptown. As the Bechtler nears its 10th anniversary on January 2, 2020, the museum is gearing up for what is soon to be an international exhibition featuring Nomadic Murals: Tapestries of the Modern Era, an exploration and presentation of tapestries and rugs designed by artists usually associated with painting, sculpture, and architecture. Examples of the more familiar media will be installed alongside the textiles. On view April 5 through December 1, 2019.
The Bechtler is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, noon-5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays and major holidays including New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Admission is $9 for adults; $7 for seniors, college students (with school ID) and educators; $5 for youth (11 to 18) and free for children (up to 10) and active-duty, retired military personnel, National Guard, Reserve and their families.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is a welcoming institution where teachers and students learn about modern art and the personal stories behind the artwork. The museum offers engaging and interactive school tours that are designed to foster students inquires, develop critical and creative thinking skills, make connections to other areas of curriculum, and help create a visual language that promotes better reading and writing skills.
Offering guided and self-guided school tours, the Bechtler’s guided tours are led by specially trained docents and last 45-60 minutes. A minimum of 10 students is required for a guided tour. All group tours, guided or self-guided, must be scheduled with the museum’s education department at least 30 days in advance. The museum requires an adult chaperone accompany each group of 10 students. Programs for students with disabilities are available by request.
Admission is $2 per student, chaperone or parent. After-school tours also are charged $2 per student. To book a tour, contact the Education Department at 704.353.9218 or email email@example.com at least 30 days in advance for all guided tours.