“They were deeply committed to contemporary, revolutionary art, and completely opposed to the conservatism of the day,” explains Petra Joos of the Guggenheim, who co-curated the exhibition with Friedli. Hermann Rupf belonged to the Socialist party, and established himself as a contemporary art critic, contributing to the Social Democratic weekly Berner Tagwacht from 1909 to 1931. “It’s hard to imagine these days, but he was a socialist entrepreneur,” Joos explains.
The couple’s radical rejection of conservative conventions in Switzerland is visible not only in the artists they supported and promoted over long periods of time—
, Picasso, Braques, Klee—but in the way they approached collecting. The artworks were spread across their modest apartment in Bern and their small stone house in the mountain village of Mürren for most of their lives—until the collection was shown to the public for the first time in Bern in 1956, at which point their buying had dwindled.
They fostered affectionate relationships with artists, as seen in a work that is dedicated to Margrit, a Christmas gift from Klee. Along with Kahnweiler, who lived with the couple during World War II, the Rupfs spent time in Mürren with the Kandinskys and the Klees. As a result, they had access to many artworks soon after they were created, and at lower cost.