The history of the Kunstmuseum Basel goes back to 1671, when the city of Basel decided to make the Amerbach art collection accessible to the public, making it the oldest public art collection in the world.
The main building was designed by local architect Rudolf Christ together with Paul Bonatz from Stuttgart. Its construction started in 1931 and it was inaugurated in 1936. The three colourful windows in the entrance are by local artists Charles Hindenlang and Otto Staiger and entitled "Art museum and University", "Plastic" and "Painting".
At the top of the main staircase, the monumental painting "View into Infinity" by Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler is on display. It was originally painted for the Kunsthaus Zürich, but turned out to be too large for that building !
The sculpture "Ptolémée III", created by Hans Arp in 1961, can be seen right next to the stairs leading towards the "Neubau".
In 2008 the architectural competition for a new building (with entries by no less than 5 Pritzker Price laureates) was won by local architects Christ & Gantenbein. The Neubau is designed for special exhibitions and opened in 2016.
It is connected to the main building through an underpass.
Several works by American artist Frank Stella, such as the over 12 meter large "Damascus Gate. Variation I" from 1970, are shown in the Neubau's basement.