Forum Würth Arlesheim. Foto/Photo: TES

The Swiss Institutions of Art of the Würth Group

The history of the Würth Group begins in 1945 in Künzelsau, a small town in Hohenlohe (Baden-Württemberg). In that year, Adolf Würth (1909-1954) founded the company Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, which his son Reinhold Würth (*1935) took over in 1954.

The internationalisation of the Würth Group took root soon thereafter. In the early 1960s, several companies were founded in other European countries, including Switzerland and Austria.

Over many decades, the screw wholesaler developed into the world’s largest company for assembly and fastening technology and Würth International. Today, the company has branches on five continents.

The Schlossmühle was Würth’s first company building in 1945. photo credits: Würth Archive

A multinational with a commitment to society, art and culture

This company’s commitment to society, art and culture makes it unique. Prof Dr h.c. mult. Reinhold Würth, currently Chairman of the Supervisory Board (Stiftungsaufsichtsrats) of the Würth Group, and his wife Carmen Würth (*1937) founded the Stiftung Würth (Würth Foundation) in 1987. The foundation promotes projects in art, culture, social affairs, education and research, integration and sport.

Prof. Dr. h.c. mult. Reinhold Würth. Photo Credit: Würth Archive

Decades earlier, both showed keen interest in social issues, art and culture. They started collecting art around 1970. Today, the Würth Collection comprises about 20,000 works of art from more than 500 years of art history, from the late Middle Ages to modern and contemporary art – mainly paintings and sculptures.

Carmen Würth. Photo Credit: Würth Archive

The works are regularly exhibited free of charge in the 15 museums, art galleries and art cabinets the company has set up and manages in Europe. The Würth Collection also presents its works at exhibitions in other museums and institutions.

Museum Würth 2 in Künzelsau. Photo Credit: Würth Archive

The museums, forums and art galleries of the Würth Group

The Museum Würth in Künzelsau opened its doors in 1991, followed by the Kunsthalle Würth in 2001 and the Johanniterkirche with old masters in Schwäbisch Hall in 2008. Museum Würth 2 in Künzelsau was established in 2020 and is integrated into the ‘Carmen Würth Forum’ cultural and congress centre.

The museum’s activities extend far beyond the region of the founding company. Since 1999, the Würth Group has managed art branches in Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Spain and Switzerland.

This article focuses in particular on the three branches in Switzerland: Rorschach (Canton of St Gallen), Chur (Canton of Graubünden) and Arlesheim (Canton of Basel-Landschaft).

The article is based on a written interview with Ms C. Sylvia Weber, head of the Würth Group’s Art and Culture Department, with a supporting role by Myriam Rüegsegger (head of Forum Würth Arlesheim).

The relationship between Switzerland, the country with the relatively highest museum density in the world and the multinational with the most museums in Europe, is thus receiving well-deserved attention.

Forum Würth Arlesheim. Photo Credit: Würth Archive

Interview with C. Sylvia Weber, head of the Würth Group’s art and culture department

  • In a small country like Switzerland, there are three Würth Forums (Foren or Kunstdependancen in German)) in Arlesheim, Chur and Rorschach. It makes Switzerland the leader in Europe, apart from the museums and institutions in Germany. Was there a particular reason for opening three institutions in Switzerland? Is a forum always linked to a business building?

The company’s expansions and the successful concept in Germany were the background and starting point for setting up art forums for its collection across Europe.

Following the example of Museum Würth in Künzelsau near the company’s headquarters in Baden-Württemberg, which was integrated into the main building in 1991, ten other art centres were opened in Europe between 1999 and 2013, integrated into the company’s main building or standing alone, but always in direct connection with the main building of the company. The art exhibitions are aimed at  Würth employees and the general public without an entrance fee.

The establishment of the Würth Forums in Chur, Arlesheim and Rorschach between 2002 and 2013 reflects the dynamism and vitality within the company.

The Würth Collection, which entrepreneur Reinhold Würth has been building up for about 60 years and which today numbers more than 20,000 works, making it one of the most important private collections, has become an increasingly fertile basis for organising exhibitions outside Germany.

The sculpture garden of Forum Würth Chur. Photo Credit: Würth Archive

  • Würth has an extensive art collection. Do the art establishments in Switzerland also have a permanent collection, or are there only temporary exhibitions?

The Swiss forums in Arlesheim and Chur have their collection of sculptures displayed outside the company buildings. They include works by Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, Bernhard Luginbühl and Not Vital. In addition, changing exhibitions are organised based on the Würth Collection, which is managed at the company headquarters in Künzelsau.

  • Who determines the theme, content and concept of the exhibitions? Is each forum autonomous, or does Würth’s Art Advisory Board have a decisive or advisory voice? Focus: sculpture, painting, graphics, nature, etc.?

The art advisory board of the Würth Group advises on the strategic direction of the collection and exhibition activities. The exhibitions themselves are organised under the responsibility of the management of the Würth Collection together with the respective curators.

There is an extensive educational programme at all art venues. It includes guided tours, workshops, accompanying events for teachers, lectures, conferences and other activities.

The Association Friends of the Würth Museums (Freunde der Museen Würth e. V.) organises special events.

Forum Würth Arlesheim, exposition ‘Christopher Lehmpfuhl, zwischen Pathos und Pastos

  • Is there any harmonisation or coordination between the different Würth museums/branches? Are there thematic focal points?

The starting point for all exhibitions is the Würth collection. It is mainly focused on painting and sculpture. The collections and exhibitions include names such names as Max Ernst, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Horst Antes, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Fernando Botero and David Hockney, to name but a few.

Alfred Hrdlicka, Anthony Caro, Eduardo Chillida, Tony Cragg and other sculptors also appear in exhibitions. In terms of themes, the presentations repeatedly refer to social and cultural topics.

We aim to show the Würth Collection in interaction with other institutions while making a broad audience aware of relevant themes and artistically essential positions.

  • Are the exhibitions (also) travelling exhibitions?

The collections are presented at several locations in succession – not least for sustainability reasons.

Carl Moll, Venedig, auf der Riva Schiavoni – view towards the Giardino Pubblico, around 1922, Würth Collection, Inv. 1879. Exhibition ‘Wasser, Wolken, Wind ‒ Elementar- und Wetterphänomene in Werken der Sammlung Würth’, Forum Würth Rorschach, 2023-2025

  • What is the relationship between the Würth Art Collection and an exhibition?

All exhibitions are based on the possession and contents of the Würth Collection.

  • Does Arlesheim have one focus, Chur and Rorschach another? Is there any particular coordination?

In principle, all programmes are being coordinated. An exhibition coordinator is involved in the exhibition projects. The Swiss Forums also repeatedly organise exhibitions in cooperation with local partners.

The location certainly plays a role in the visitor structure. For example, Arlesheim attracts visitors from Baden-Württemberg and Alsace, while Rorschach and Chur attract visitors from the Lake Constance region and Italy.

It includes, for example, exhibitions of art for and by people with disabilities – a key focus at Würth. In Arlesheim, for instance, in cooperation with the creative workshop of the Bürgerspital in Basel and Rorschach with the Open Art Museum in St Gallen, an institution for Swiss naive art and art brut. Another example is the photo exhibition “HIDDEN – Hidden Places in Switzerland” and other projects with local themes and artists.

  • What experiences do you have with the reactions of the public, other museums and local communities?

We cooperate with other local cultural institutions. For us, barrier-free access and no entrance fees to art and culture are matters of principle, including free access to the art institutions of Würth.

This commitment has been positively received and utilised by local communities. The Würth Collection has already welcomed 10.4 million visitors worldwide since 1989. Thanks to free admission, the Würth Collection’s “playgrounds” have become the most democratic places in the world, to quote Reinhold Würth.

The future?

We are constantly working to inspire the public in Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Spain and Switzerland.

The revitalisation and expansion of Kunsthalle Würth in Schwäbisch Hall by the internationally renowned architectural firm Henning Larsen Munich, which is currently taking place, is an essential step into the future.

Many thanks for your contribution

Collection Würth, Old Masters in the Johanniterkirche, Schwäbisch Hall. Photo: Würth Archive