The Museum of Drawers 1970–1977

The Museum of Drawers 1970–1977

Five Hundred Works of Modern Art

This volume is a complete portrait of Herbert Distel’s iconic Museum of Drawers and contains life-sized photographs of each individual work of art in its collection as well as images of each of the twenty drawers as an ensemble.



Title Information

Herbert Distel. Contributions by Herbert Distel, Gabi Zaun-Fertel, Ueli Zingg, and Anne Marie Aeschlimann. Edited by Thomas Kramer

1st edition

, 2011

Text English and German


184 pages, 553 color and 17 b/w illustrations

20 x 30 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-333-6

In cooperation with Kunsthaus Zürich


The Museum of Drawers—a cult object among audiences in Europe and America, as Texas Monthly stated in 1978—has the distinction of being the world’s smallest museum of twentieth-century art. But far from being a mere curiosity, the Museum of Drawers is a true microcosm of art produced during that time. Conceived and assembled by Swiss-born artist Herbert Distel in 1970, the museum consists of an old cabinet that contains twenty drawers, each of which are divided into twenty-five compartments. The resulting five hundred sections each contain a miniature work of art, many of which were specially commissioned for this project. An impressive array of artists, including Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Alex Katz, Roy Lichtenstein, Meret Oppenheim, Pablo Picasso, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol, is represented.

The Museum of Drawers 1970–1977 is a complete portrait of this extraordinary collection and contains photographs of each of the drawers, as well as life-sized image of each individual compartment. Complementing these images is an interview with Herbert Distel, covering the history and significance of the museum.

Authors & Editors

Anne Marie Aeschlimann

Herbert Distel

Thomas Kramer

Gabi Zaun-Fertel

Ueli Zingg


“In Museum of Drawers, Herbert Distel arranged tiny examples of work from well-known artists of his period into a chest of drawers, in order to create a miniaturist survey of art history.” New York Magazine


“Herbert Distel adopted the role of the museum curator when he invited artists from around the world to contribute miniature works for display in the tiny galleries of his Museum of Drawers. The drawers in this found cabinet are filled with five hundred works by a wide range of artists creating a comprehensive survey of artistic currents in the 1960s and 1970s.”