The Rupfs were the first private Swiss collectors to occupy themselves with abstract art. At the beginning, they were guided by their personal taste in the formation of their collection and in 1954 their holdings—approximately 250 artworks as well as many art books—were given to the Museum of Fine Arts Bern as a foundation, an extremely significant contribution to the museum’s collection.
Today, the foundation’s collection consists of more than 900 works including paintings, sculptures, and works on paper.
Bernese businessman Hermann Rupf (1880–1962) was one of the first collectors who, in 1907 Paris started to purchase works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and also by the Fauves Othon Friesz and André Derain. Parisian art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884–1979), with whom the Rupfs enjoyed a life-long friendship, played a central role in their collecting. Through Kahnweiler, many groups of works by Fernand Léger, Juan Gris and, later, André Masson were added to the collection.
The Rupfs also maintained friendly relations with Paul and Lily Klee and from 1913, works by Klee were regularly added to the Rupf collection. They were also important supporters of numerous artists, scientists, and musicians in Bern itself. Hermann Rupf, who was also the co-owner of the mercery Hossmann & Rupf, was as an active art critic and a relevant figure in the promotion of the appreciation for contemporary art. His writings and criticism— directed against conservative art policies—could be understood as pleas for the understanding of contemporary art.
The creation of the Rupf Foundation in 1954 guaranteed the conservation, consolidation, and expansion of the collection. In line with the intention of the Rupfs, the main investment of the Foundation was directed towards contemporary artists such as Meret Oppenheim, Lee Byars, Donald Judd, Joseph Beuys, or James Turrell, among others.