Ville de Genève


Mise à jour: 18.09.2018

Putting art on the shelves since 1910: the Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie

Switzerland’s biggest art library has a passion for books about art, art history, design, the art market and a great deal more. Find out more about the Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie!
Bibliothèque d'art et architecture de la promenade du Pin
© David Wagnières/Ville de Genève

Switzerland’s largest art library

On the south edge of Geneva’s Old Town is a row of elegant town houses, facing Promenade du Pin, one of the city’s smallest but most alluring public gardens.  The house on the corner, at number 5, was built in 1861 for the Diodati-Plantamour family, enthusiastic patrons of letters, sciences and the fine arts for generations in the city. During the following decades, the space behind the houses – military fortifications until the 1850s – was progressively built up, first the city’s new School of Fine Arts and then, in 1910, the Art and History Museum.  The museum was endowed one year later with funds to make public its specialized art library that reflected the diversity of its collections: fine arts and archaeology, but also more specialized fields like numismatics, architecture, industrial arts… And thus the BAA (“Bibliothèque d’art et archéologie”, the Art and Archaeology Library) came into being.

 In 1927, Amélie Diodati-Plantamour bequeathed 5, promenade du Pin to the City of Geneva and the artistic vocation of that particular city block was consolidated when the BAA moved into the premises. Today, it is the largest art library in Switzerland, with collections covering all aspects of art from prehistoric to contemporary times: over 450’000 monographies, among which a unique collection of over 160’000 art exhibition catalogues and auction catalogues, 6’200 periodicals, electronic and multimedia tools, as well as a very impressive rare book collection, featuring ancient books and artistic editions, some by the likes of artists like Andy Warhol.

Everything you ever wanted to know about art

All titles printed after 1945 may go out on loan but users first need to obtain a RERO card (the network of French Swiss university and research libraries) which costs CHF 10 and is available at the BAA loans desk in the reading room. Being a heritage and research library, the BAA does not operate on an open-stacks basis and users unfortunately cannot browse through the collections. You need to know what you’re looking for or find it beforehand in the online catalogue, but chances are, it you’re searching for that reference book on vintage 1970s Danish kitchenware or the 1922 archaeological survey of Palmyra, it’ll probably be there.  

There is, however, a fine spread of current international art and design periodicals freely accessible in the media room and all newly acquired books can be browsed in the main reading room, an airy and luminous space at the corner of the building. Also in the reading room area, the temporary exhibitions space in front of the loans desk is often dedicated to into one of the BAA’s specialized fields: book art, object-books and all other variations on the book as work of art. And if you come with kids, the BAA librarians have thoughtfully set out, on the lowest shelf, a selection of the many artistically-crafted children’s books they also collect: they are particularly proud of their pop-up books!


Bibliothèque d'art et d'archéologie

Promenade du Pin 5
1204 Genève
Tél.+41 22 418 27 00
Fax+41 22 418 27 01

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