• 13 May - 9 October 2016

    Gardens tell stories – stories of a yearning for paradise, stories of love, retreat, power and beauty. An exhibition for garden-lovers of all kinds. 


    Museum Rietberg invites you to take a stroll through the gardens of the world and through the world of gardens. This major exhibition of famous gardens from Japan to England also tells the stories of people who have sought inspiration, happiness, love, refuge or peace in gardens. They did not always find it, however, for death and treachery sometimes lurk behind herbaceous borders and hedges too. In search of a better existence or even rebirth in a garden of paradise far from the noise and dust of the world, people have striven to realise the garden of their dreams.

    From the garden oases created in the deserts of ancient Egypt and Babylon to a stone garden in Kyoto, the idyllic sanctuary of a Chinese poet, a palace garden in ancient Persia, medieval floral hideaways, acres of parkland for the kings and princes of the Baroque era and seemingly boundless landscape gardens in England and Germany, the exhibition explores the sheer variety of garden art. Through the ages, artists, poets and flower enthusiasts have created, painted and written about gardens: works by artists such as Carl Spitzweg, Kitagawa Utamaro, Paul Klee, Max Liebermann, Wen Zhengming, Alberto Giacometti and others afford us a glimpse of some very private gardens and personal paradises.

    The themes of the exhibition also feature in the work of contemporary artists such as Ai Weiwei, David Hockney, Roman Signer, Thomas Struth and others. Gardens and parks reveal much about the culture and era in which they were created, from the relationship between humans and nature to religion and ideas about the world beyond, to order and power, cultural exchange, feelings of freedom and imprisonment, not to mention the personalities of those who designed them. The exhibition presents paintings, plans, drawings, photographs, film excerpts and video installations from Japan, China, India, the Orient and Europe, taking us on a diverting and sensually stimulating excursion through the history of horticulture.

    Supported by the Parrotia Foundation, the Vontobel Foundation, Swiss Re and Novartis. In cooperation with Grün Stadt Zürich as part of the Swiss Year of the Garden 2016.

  • Rieterpark

    Museum Rietberg is located in Rieterpark, one of Switzerland’s most beautiful landscape gardens. The park not only provides the backdrop for the exhibition but is also part of it. In front of Villa Wesendonck, Grün Stadt Zürich (the city’s Office of Parks and Open Spaces) will be preparing flower beds especially for the exhibition, of the kind that were popular in the late nineteenth century and displayed in the Rieterpark of the day. The upper loggia of Villa Wesendonck will be open to the public, affording a magnificent view over the park. The location is associated with Richard Wagner, who in 1858 composed the song “Im Treibhaus” (In the Greenhouse) for his lover and muse Mathilde Wesendonck here.

    A «hanging garden» consisting of a wild array of herbs and flowers will be cultivated in the area in front of the museum with the assistance of school classes, children and families. It will feature plants that can be found in the artworks on display in the exhibition. The café will become a garden restaurant where visitors can eat, drink and relax surrounded by herbs, flowers and vegetables. 


    Adolf Dietrich, 1926
    Oil paints on cardboard 
    Kunstmuseum Winterthur

    Additional Programme

    Museum Rietberg’s garden exhibition will be one of the main attractions in the «Gartenjahr 2016 – Raum für Begegnungen» (Year of the Garden 2016 – A Space for Encounters) event taking place all over Switzerland. Staged by a broad alliance of national organisations, the event has been conceived as a campaign to preserve and develop open spaces and gardens and to highlight their role in ensuring quality of life in high-density urban areas. Within this framework Museum Rietberg is planning a whole series of attractions in cooperation with Grün Stadt Zürich.

    On the weekend of 25/26 June 2016 a major festival will be staged in the Rieterpark featuring a varied programme of music and culinary delicacies. The Museum’s open-air cinema will show a series of films set in gardens and parks, most of them literary dramatisations. During the summer months the pavilion designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban will provide a place to sit and relax and let the world go by. The pavilion can also be rented for events and functions. 

    Gardens of Amun in the Temple at Karnak
    in the above-ground chapel of the tomb of Sennefer 
    Thebes West, grave no. 96
    ca. 1400 BC.
    Drawing by Ippolito Rosellini, 1834