Angetrieben durch die Faszination und Begeisterung für die Kunst der Gegenwart, bauten sich Emanuel Hoffmann (1896–1932) und Maja Hoffmann-Stehlin anfangs des 20. Jahrhunderts eine private Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst auf.
Their enthusiasm was fostered by travel, especially to Paris and Brussels, where they established contacts with the avant-garde art world and made their first purchases of works by artists they had befriended. Emanuel Hoffmann's rapid rise to prominence in the cultural life of Basel was sealed in 1932 by his election as President of the Kunstverein. The following year, however, he died, at the age of only 36, as the result of injuries sustained in a road accident. This tragic circumstance led to the creation of the Foundation that bears his name. Maja Hoffmann-Stehlin describes its central objective as follows:
“In memory of my husband, I hereby establish a foundation to be known as the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation in accordance with the regulations of the Swiss Civil Code, to be domiciled in Basel. The Foundation is being set up in order to continue, in some way, my husband’s most important activity.”
(from the Deeds of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation)