Since 2014, the Kunstmuseum Basel’s Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings) has received ca. 300 works of art on paper, mostly treasures of Expressionist and contemporary art, from Betty and Hartmut Raguse-Stauffer. A selection from this extraordinarily generous gift will now make its public debut at the Kunstmuseum.
The art that Betty and Hartmut Raguse-Stauffer have given to the Kunstmuseum reflects the remarkable assiduity with which, over the course of four decades, they built an outstanding collection. The ensemble is a testament to their unconditional love of art, extensive expertise, and keen eye for quality, as well as to the deep bond between two people who have traveled much of life’s journey together. Honoring their generosity, the exhibition Worlds Within. The gift of Betty and Hartmut Raguse-Stauffer is also a tribute to Betty Raguse-Stauffer, who passed away in 2015.
Their first work of art, a drawing by A. R. Penck, was given to Betty and Hartmut Raguse- Stauffer on occasion of their wedding in 1976. The following year, they purchased an etching by Emil Nolde, laying the foundation for a growing collection. Their two foci of interest emerged early on: they fell in love with the art of the Expressionists, especially Emil Nolde, a native of northern Germany like Hartmut Raguse. And they kept up on the diverse tendencies in contemporary art, with a particular enthusiasm for artists who worked in the figurative mode such as A. R. Penck, Jonathan Borofsky, Marlene Dumas, and Rosemarie Trockel. Another major division of their collection, comprising work by eminent Swiss artists of the 1980s including Silvia Bächli, Miriam Cahn, and Josef Müller, has gone to the Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, where a sizable selection was on view under the title Wild Thing in the winter of 2017–18.
Rather than collecting specific artists or creative positions, Betty and Hartmut Raguse-Stauffer allowed themselves to be captivated by the individual work; they were drawn to motifs that spoke to their passions and personal interests: existential human experiences such as love and death, religion and spirituality, as well as music. Their professional backgrounds—Hartmut is a theologian and psychoanalyst, and an avid musician; Betty was a psychoanalyst—guided them in their selection. Their emotional attachment to a work, its expressive force, and the context of the collection were decisive criteria.
Unwavering in their enthusiasm for great art, Betty and Hartmut Raguse-Stauffer over time assembled an imposing collection. Since 2014, they have given 126 drawings, 157 fine-art prints, 9 books and 18 photographs to the Kunstmuseum Basel’s Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings). We present a selection of around 70 drawings and watercolors from this ample and diverse ensemble.