The Kunstmuseum Basel houses the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland, and is listed as a heritage site of national significance. Its lineage extends back to the Amerbach Cabinet purchased by the city of Basel in 1661, which made it the first municipally owned museum. Its collection is distinguished by an impressively wide historic span, from the early 15th century up to the immediate present. Its various areas of emphasis give it international standing as one of the most significant museums of its kind. These encompass: paintings and drawings by artists active in the Upper Rhine region between 1400 and 1600 and on the art of the 19th to 21st centuries.
The Kunstmuseum possesses the largest collection of works by the Holbein family. Further examples of Renaissance art include important pieces by such masters as Konrad Witz, Hans Baldung (called Grien), Martin Schongauer, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Mathias Grünewald. The main features of the 17th and 18th centuries are the Flemish and Dutch schools (e.g. Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Jan Brueghel the Elder), German and Dutch still life painting. Key works from the 19th century include the Impressionists represented by Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne as well as the paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Switzerland’s Arnold Böcklin and Ferdinand Hodler. In the 20th century, the focus is on works of Cubism with Picasso, Braque and Juan Gris. Expressionism is represented by such figures as Edvard Munch, Franz Marc, Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde. The collection also includes works of art from the periods of Constructivism, Dadaism and Surrealism and American art since 1950. Further highlights are the unique compilations of works from Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Paul Klee, Alberto Giacometti and Marc Chagall.
In the realm of more recent and contemporary art, the collection maintains substantial complexes of works by Swiss, German, Italian, and American artists, including Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman, Jonathan Borofsky, Roni Horn, Francesco Clemente, Mimmo Paladino, Enzo Cucchi, Walter Dahn, Martin Disler, Siegfried Anzinger, Leiko Ikemura, Markus Raetz, Robert Therrien, Rosemarie Trockel and Robert Gober.