Gustave Revilliod (1817-1890), the great collector and patron, had a private museum built between 1877 and 1884 to house his personal collections.
Revilliod’s cultural project was a highly ambitious one. In tune with the encyclopaedic spirit of the late 19th century, his collections reflect the extremely diverse manifestations of human creativity from Antiquity to the contemporary period in Europe, the Near East and the Far East. In its original configuration, the museum held ceramics, glass and stained glass, as well as collections of paintings, sculpture, rare books, coins, silverware, furniture and many other curiosities.
Gustave Revilliod bequeathed his museum and its holdings to the City of Geneva, and the Ariana became a municipal museum on the death of the benefactor in 1890.
When the large Museum of Art and History opened in the city centre in 1910, the Musée Ariana gradually sunk into oblivion. In 1934, the municipal authorities therefore decided to turn it into a ceramics museum. It took until 1956 to transfer all the objects, including the entire ceramic collections of the Museum of Art and History (excluding those of Antiquity), to the Ariana.
The glass collections were also moved to the Ariana in 1986 and stained glass in 2000, giving it its definitive status as a museum of the “arts of fire”, one of the five most important European institutions in this field.
So that visitors could not only appreciate the very special architecture of the building, but also have access to all the infrastructures of a modern museum, the Ariana underwent major restoration work that lasted almost twelve years. This was completed in 1993, when the museum was reopened to the public.
In 2010, the Geneva Administrative Council granted administrative autonomy to the Musée Ariana, which had been affiliated to the Museum of Art and History for over sixty years.
The Ariana now welcomes around 60,000 visitors a year and its institutional visibility has significantly increased among a diversified public.