Bruno Bischofberger

Born in 1940 in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1958 starts to read art history, archaeology and the ethnography of the Western World (folk art) at the University of Zurich, with further studies at the universities of Bonn and Munich. In 1971 marriage to Christina (née Clifton). They currently both live in a house designed by Ettore Sottsass overlooking the lake of Zurich.

1963 opens the city-galerie on Pelikanstrasse in Zurich. First important exhibition of modern art, 15  June to 10 July 1965, Pop Art, with works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Rauschenberg, Wesselmann and Rosenquist. In the following years the gallery moves three times and becomes known as Galerie Bischofberger. Exhibitions include work by a number of the most important living artists from Europe and the USA, in solo exhibitions or group shows. Notable presentations feature American Pop Art, the Nouveau Réalistes from Paris (such as Klein, Tinguely and Spoerri), as well as leading exponents of Conceptual Art (Nauman, Kosuth, Kawara), Minimalism (Judd, Flavin, André, Serra, Le Witt) and Land Art (Heizer).

Le Witt, Flavin, Kosuth and Nauman make site-specific installations for their solo exhibitions.

In 1966 meets Warhol for the first time. Over the ensuing decades, Bischofberger travels to New York between five and ten times annually. In 1968 Warhol offers approximately twenty early works that he had held back to Bischofberger, who chooses eleven works of significance, including hand-painted early works such as Superman, Batman, a coloured Coca Cola painting and several large, often double-panelled Disaster-paintings and early portraits dating from 1961 to 1963. Warhol explains that he has given up painting and intends to only work in film in the future. He nevertheless grants Bischofberger the right of first refusal on any future art works, which will last until Warhol’s death in 1987. The dealer commissions Warhol to do a portrait of him. Warhol agrees to a pricing scheme, proposed by Bischofberger, with fixed sizes for further portraits of the gallery owner's clients. Over the next few years these become the artist’s main source of income. [More on the very close relationship with Warhol: Bruno Bischofberger, "A Brief History on My Relationship with Andy Warhol", 2001]

From the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s Bischofberger regularly shows Schnabel, Salle, Basquiat, Barceló, Condo, Clemente, Cucchi, Dokoupil, Halley, Bidlo, Tinguely and Warhol. He publishes a number of books on these artists and contributes to the realisation of museum exhibitions of these artists’ work worldwide.

In May 1982 Bischofberger hears that Jean-Michel Basquiat left Annina Nosei's gallery, who had represented him for 4,5 months. The artist tells him that the main reason for this was the fact, that Annina Nosei, despite his several warnings, sold paintings which he had not declared as finished or for sale yet.[1]

Bischofberger becomes Basquiat's worldwide exclusive art dealer, an agreement that lasts until the artist’s untimely death.[2]

In 1984 Bischofberger commissions Warhol, Basquiat and Clemente, who are all exclusively represented by his gallery, to create a number of collaborative works which are shown in Zurich from 15  September - to 13 October 1984. Warhol and Basquiat continue to collaborate, the younger artist successfully persuading the older to paint by hand again after having used silk screens exclusively for 23 years. Exhibition of these Collaborations from 14 November 1986 to 17 January 1987.

Bruno Bischofberger is played by Dennis Hopper in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 film Basquiat.


[1] Cf. an excerpt from an interview by Isabelle Graw (IG) with Jean-Michel Basquiat (JMB) published in Wolkenkratzer Art Journal, Frankfurt, no. 1, January-February 1987, translated from German into English: «(IG) You don't make life easy for your dealers. You have recently left Mary Boone... (JMB) I didn't get on with her.   (IG) Before that you made paintings in the cellar of Annina Nosei's gallery... (JMB) I didn't have a studio back then. She offered me her cellar to work in. The bad thing about this situation was that she sold paintings that weren't finished. She said someone was interested in the painting and sold it despite my protests. I was young then, l've learnt a lot since then.    (IG) Do youfeel like a victim?  (JMB) Yes.»

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[2] Cf. "Chronology of Jean-Michel Basquiat" by Anna Karina Hofbauer, 2019

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Read more:

"Andy Warhol's Visual Memory" by Bruno Bischofberger (Bruno Bischofberger regards this as his most important text ever)

- Bruno Bischofberger, Andy Warhol's Visual Memory, Edition Galerie Bruno Bischofberger,

  Zurich, 2001, p. 9ff.

- (In German) Carl Haenlein (ed.), Andy Warhol Fotografien 1976–1987, Kestner Gesellschaft,

  Hannover, 2001, p. 13ff.

"A Brief History of My Relationship with Andy Warhol" by Bruno Bischofberger

Published in:

- (Extended version as preface) Bruno Bischofberger, Andy Warhol's Visual Memory, Edition

  Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, 2001, p. 6–7

- Magnus Bischofberger, Prehistory to the Future, Highlights from the Bischofberger

  Collection, Electa, Milan, 2008, p. 258–259

"Chronology of Jean-Michel Basquiat" by Anna Karina Hofbauer, 2019

"Collaborations: Reflections on the Experiences with Basquiat, Clemente and Warhol" by Bruno Bischofberger

- (Edited version) Magnus Bischofberger, Prehistory to the Future, Highlights from the

  Bischofberger Collection, Electa, Milan, 2008, p. 262ff.

- (Unedited version) Tilman Osterwold (ed.), Collaborations: Warhol, Basquiat Clemente,

  Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1996, p. 39ff.