Maja Oeri is a Swiss pharmaceutical heiress who has been a significant funder to a number of contemporary-art foundations. She is best known for founding the Schaulager, an art space in Basel—its leaders view the Schaulager as neither a museum nor a traditional collecting institution—devoted to showing her grandmother’s art collection. With the backing of a company that today is worth $220 billion, Oeri’s grandfather Emanuel began collecting artwork that became the basis for the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, which fast-tracked Basel to become one of Europe’s leading hubs for art. The foundation supplied works to institutions such as the Kunsthalle Basel and the Kunstmuseum Basel, and it funded the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, the first museum in Europe devoted exclusively to art made after 1960.
Since 2002, all work from the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation not held by other institutions has been on view nearby at the Schaulager, the Herzog & de Meuron–designed private arts center established by Oeri. Though recognized as one of the world’s great art collectors and patrons, and though she is a board member of nearly a dozen museums, kunsthalles, and universities, Oeri is extremely private. In addition to supporting museums, Oeri has funded art history programs at Swiss universities. As a trustee at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Oeri has donated major works to the collection, including a set of Joseph Beuys vitrines and a video projection by Paul Chan. Because of Oeri and her late partner Hans Bodenmann’s major contributions, MoMA has named a permanent-collection gallery after the couple.