The Kunstmuseum Basel consists of three buildings: The Hauptbau, which mainly houses the collection up to Classical Modernism, the Neubau, in which the large special exhibitions have their place, and the Gegenwart, the exhibition house for contemporary art.
The Kunstmuseum Basel’s Hauptbau was completed in 1936 based on plans by the architect Rudolf Christ (Basel) and his colleague Paul Bonatz (Stuttgart), two representatives of a conservative modernism. It was originally conceived solely for the presentation of the museum’s collections. The ground floor now showcases the collection of art from Basel; the mezzanine is reserved for the treasures of the Im Obersteg Collection and exhibitions by the Kupferstichkabinett (the Department of Drawings). The collections of medieval and Renaissance art as well as works from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries can be found on the second floor. The art of classic modernism and European postwar modernism is presented on the third floor. Finally, the Hauptbau also houses the shop and museum bistro (on the ground floor).
In April 2016, the museum inaugurated a third venue across the street from the Hauptbau, to which it is connected by an underground passage: the Neubau by the local architects Christ & Gantenbein. It is designed to accommodate both special exhibitions and presentations of art from the collections. Many elements of the Neubau quote the architectonic idiom of its older sibling across the street. The dialogue between the structures is most readily apparent in the Neubau’s monumental staircase beneath a central circular skylight, the rough scraped plaster in the foyer and stairwell, and the subtle colors of the brick façade. The great special exhibitions are held in the skylighted galleries on the second floor. Treasures from the collection of art after 1950 are presented on the other gallery levels and in the passageway connecting the Neubau to the Hauptbau – with the exception of contemporary art, which is on view at the Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart. A branch of the shop in the Hauptbau is located on the Neubau’s ground floor.