Migros Collection and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst: Ensuring their Future

Migros is one of Switzerland’s leading companies — the country’s largest supermarket chain and largest employer.

The  exceptional collection of over 500 contemporary artworks from 1960 to the present is unusual because it has been assembled within a co-op governing structure.

Whispering Pines 9, 2009, by Shana Moulton, Two-channel video installation, Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Photograph: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich. © Shana Moulton

There are a variety of ways that a business can collect and manage the acquisition of art for a company.  What most people refer to as a   corporate art collection   is the usual form where the art is owned by the corporation and is cared for as a business asset.   Also very common are  corporate foundations, or sole proprietorships, and partnerships are usually a characteristic of law firms.

The Migros collection however, is governed though   co-op ownership — the only one that I am familiar with that is organized   this way.

Most people are familiar with artist-run co-operatives that are established to provide their members with studio and exhibition spaces.  But it is unusual for a business co-op that is not art-related  to assemble an impressive art collection.

The Migros art collection began in 1957 when the company established the Migros-Kulturprozent statutes.  These are voluntary commitments by Migros in the fields of culture, society, education, and leisure.  Every year, the Migros Cooperatives commit to a contribution to the Migros-Kulturprozent   (Migros Cultural Percentage) —  The amount of the contribution is based on sales, and continues to be made even during times of downturns of the retail trade.

Some of the guidelines for the Migros Co-operatives include

—Migros uses 0.5% of its revenue for social and cultural projects.

—It does not pay any dividend;

—If the earnings before interest and taxes  reach 5%, the supermarkets have to lower their prices

—Every adult living in Switzerland can become a member (receive a share for free) and vote at the general assembly

Migros’ major commitment to the visual arts is  made through their  Museum für Gegenwartskunst,  founded in 1996 in Zurich.

Through this unique, patron-like commitment of Migros, the continuity of its art collection is guaranteed.

Migros SA,  began as a private company and family corporation in 1925.     By 1941, the founder, Gottlieb and his wife Adele Duttweiler transferred ownership of Migros to their customers, as a co- operative —

….. essentially giving the business to his customers by transforming everything from his privately owned enterprises into regional cooperatives, headed by the Federation of Migros Cooperatives (German: Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund, French: Fédération des coopératives Migros, Italian: Federazione delle cooperative Migros).

Museum’s 20th Anniversary

This year, the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since its founding in 1996, it has supported the production, exhibition, and collection of international contemporary art.  Museum programs have presented temporary one person and group exhibitions, usually working in close cooperation with the artists, as well as artworks from its own collection, on two floors.

In the museum’s mission, contemporary art is seen as a dynamic classification that covers an ongoing exploration in both  looking forward and looking back.  At the same time, the use of this term implies its inclusion into a social context, as well as an ongoing exchange of ideas and in art production.

The museum’s exhibitions show art history as a constantly changing  process that is open to observation,  revision, and variation.  By incorporating the Migros art collection into a lively environment, it is promotes the creation of art.

20th Anniversary Exhibition:    The Museum Revisited – 1996–2016

The 20th anniversary celebration has given the museum an opportunity to focus on itself.  The exhibition tries to envision the museum’s future while also looking back on its past, and examines the history of the museum and its collection and curatorial program.

The exhibition has put a spotlight on the everyday operations of the museum and offers unusual glimpses of what is going on behind the scenes, with particular emphasis on the art education activities.

The exhibition is being accompanied by an anthology produced in collaboration with the Institute of Art History at the University of Berne and the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, and will be published in January 2017.
The book.   It will be published in January 2017, and will discuss the functions of a museum of contemporary art from diverse perspectives.

Publications, posters, photographic and video documentation, and archival materials trace the outlines of the museum’s work.  A parallel cycle on display in the upstairs galleries  showcases works from the collection combining performance and process-based works from 1960 – 1982, with a sprawling 3000 square foot sculpture by the Scottish artist, Karla Black.
The two segments of the exhibition are connected by an “interlude”
featuring a work by Eva Koťátková (b. Prague, 1982; lives and works in Prague).

Today, Migros has kept the cooperative society as its form of organization.  A large part of the Swiss population are members of the Migros cooperative – around 2 million of Switzerland’s total population of 7.2 million,, thus making Migros a supermarket chain that is owned by its customers. More than 90% of the assortment of goods is produced by ninety subsidiaries of Migros.

Museum für Gegenwartskunst   Limmatstrasse 270 /8005 Zürich, Switzerland