Sunday, 31 July 2011

Geneva & Zürich

MAMCO / Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva

So most of this week has been spent between Geneva and Zürich, in my first ever visit to Switzerland.

Geneva itself is a funny place. It's an international city, with more than half of the population being non-Swiss. Around the lake is beautiful, but the city itself is bitty, and seemingly in a state of permanent roadwork-induced chaos at present. The architecture, too, is all over the place, with elegant French style apartment blocks sitting cheek by jowl with mirror glass office towerblocks and East Germany-lite concrete housing estates. For all its international character, it seems like a pretty quiet and sleepy place, too.

However, there are some good art spaces here. The MAMCO centre, four floors of an old industrial building, has a very impressive permanent collection, continually rotated, and generous space for local and international artists to mount serious exhibitions. When I visited on Friday, the top floor was given over to the witty and humorous sculpture and mobiles of Markus Raetz; a real illusionist in three dimensions who delights in fitting two images into one form, through manipulation of the material and judicious use of mirror images and trompe l'oeil. If Raetz's ambitious retrospective was a delight, then Cosima von Bonin's hallucinogenic floor full of sewn bunnies, nod and a wink references to 90s rave culture, toy rockets and nonsense poems was far less so; very much an attempt to combine "witty" popular cultural knowledge, alongside a frenetic chase after the ambulance of controversy, with generally underwhelming results.

More interesting, on the ground floor, was the neon sculptures and installations of the young Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret, a scattergun showing of lyrical abstractions. There was also a decent broad exhibition of European contemporary artists from the last forty or so years, featuring the likes of Gordon Matta-Clark and Julije Knifer . The second floor also featured a very wide ranging and well sourced show of Europunk, from c. 1976-80, very familiar to the British visitor but interesting in its display of European echos of the punk "revolution". MAMCO also seems to be a community run space with local artists featuring prominently in the development and display of the programmes, overall it;s a very well put together space well worth the visit.

Oscar Gauthier, Hommage a Laprade, 1962
At the Musée Rath, in the city centre, there was an excellent show of European post-war "lyrical abstraction" from c. 1946-62, mainly focusing on Paris' attempts to rebuild its cultural life and re-establish its credentials as the capital of world art in the years following the end of the traumatic Nazi occupation. This is a really solid narrative show, with all the expected names (Jorn, Appel, Soulages, Dubuffet, Hartung) featuring alongside some much less well-known painters. English language art history tends to focus on the COBRA group and Art Brut in this period, so decent painters such as Gérard Schneider, from Switzerland, and the Frenchmen Martin Barré and Oscar Gauthier have tended to slip through the cracks. A constructed Barré landscape dating from 1950 is amongst the best things here in a very strong and compelling show.

Gerard Schneider Opus 24.B
Three hours drive east, Zürich is a really beautiful city, extremely lively at night and stuffed full of art by day. Unfortunately, I've chosen the wrong time to come here for art as a) it's Sunday and b) everywhere seems to be closed for the holidays- from the well known Dada space Cabaret Voltaire to the Centre for Contemporary Art in the old Lowenbrau Brewery, which seems to be in the process of total re-construction. Nonetheless, it's been well worth visiting; sunny, gorgeous architecture, decent beer and very interesting to walk around on a lazy Sunday. Church bells are chiming sonorously next my hotel as I write this. I'll be back, when, er, everything is open, but not on this trip.

Tomorrow's an overnight stop in Salzburg, the prelude to six days in Vienna. The next update will be from the Austrian capital later this week.

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoying this blog Jon. It's a great way to catch up on some stuff I wouldn't have otherwise known about.