Your Guide to Zurich Art Weekend

For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town

BY Aoife Rosenmeyer in Critic's Guides | 08 JUN 18

Pamela Rosenkranz, ‘Amazon Spirits (Green Blood)’, 2018, installation view, Karma International, Zurich. Courtesy: the artist and Karma International, Zurich

Pamela Rosenkranz, ‘Amazon Spirits (Green Blood)’

Karma International
7 June – 14 July

Pamela Rosenkranz has been busy since she her immersive block-colour installations filled the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015. Her contribution to the ‘Slight Agitation’ series at Milan’s Fondazione Prada last year was an immense heap of sand that occupied a green-lit gallery, scented with a synthetic pheromone that might attract or repulse viewers – proof of her ongoing engagement with the operation of perception and sensation, starting at a cellular and molecular level. We humans are products of our biological evolution, and in a cultural context this ultimately informs questions of art and taste, Rosenkranz’s thinking goes. The intriguing narratives Rosenkranz uncovers in her research, scientific and philosophical, become all the more interesting when related to the corporations that have, within a short time, voraciously occupied huge arenas of daily life. For the exhibition ‘Amazon Spirits’ Rosenkranz taps the well-tuned mythology of the behemoth Amazon, contrasting how it conveys its foundation story, its evolving branding and the ‘real’ geographic references behind that, just as the company sets its sights on space. Expect sculptures with neon and paintings in worm blood parsing the symbolic and catalytic properties of colour, light and form.

Karma International is now at its fourth Zurich site, near Wiedikon station. Close by is art book collector Christoph Schifferli’s ‘klein und fein’ ARCHIV & UC Books, open on Saturdays.

Mitchell Anderson, Fortunate Son, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 200 cm diameter. Courtesy: Galerie Maria Bernheim, Zurich

Mitchell Anderson, ‘recurrence’
Galerie Maria Bernheim
8 June – 28 July

Maria Bernheim’s gallery is a welcome presence on Limmatstrasse, filling the gap between Lullin+Ferrari, BolteLang and the Löwenbräu complex. Since opening at the end of 2015 she has shown several artists overdue a Zurich platform, such as Denis Savary and Ramaya Tegegne; sculptural works from Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle’s erstwhile assistant Rico Weber’s little-known estate featured in a fascinating recent exhibition. Zurich-based American artist Mitchell Anderson wears many hats, as he also writes for numerous publications and runs the artist-run space Plymouth Rock (where Marie Karlberg’s show is one of the last in the current location). For a recent exhibition at Fri Art in Fribourg Anderson positioned himself at multiple points within the cycle of production. In 2017, he had to attend an employment incentive programme organized by the Canton of Zug, during which he and colleagues with ‘creative’ skills had to produce craft objects that were later offered for sale in a shop affiliated with the programme. Anderson subsequently bought back the objects that he had co-produced and displayed them for his solo exhibition. When the origins and status of readymades are the artist’s focus, he often examines vestigial significance attached to symbols, even when diluted through careless reproduction. ‘recurrence’ avails of Bernheim’s shop-front site to display political campaign graphics, tools of transmission whilst equally, in this instance, evidence of political ossification.

Peter Lindbergh, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington & Naomi Campbell, Brooklyn, 1990, exhibition print, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag® Baryta 315 grs, 60 x 50 cm. Courtesy: © Peter Lindbergh, Paris 

‘Fashion Drive: Extreme Clothing in the Visual Arts’
Kunsthaus Zürich
20 April – 15 July

Cathérine Hug and Christoph Becker have staged a dense illustration of the intersections between fashion and art – and of course politics, religion and society too. Art and fine clothing have both been accessories of the wealthy and powerful, and here impressive and amusing objects – paintings and suits of armour – from the Renaissance onwards demonstrate art and skilled craft that demonstrated their owners’ attributes, especially in the groin area. History grants us clear hindsight; Marie Antoinette’s portrait as shepherdess screams of naivety.

Over time the relationship between artist and patron became less contractual, or less overtly so; art could take better aim at fashion, seen here in caricatures of post-Revolutionary fops, or in Honoré Daumier’s rather mournful illustration of a hooped skirt wearer stashing stolen goods in her underwear. Hindsight can go both ways, however: it’s unclear whether Gustav Klimt’s exhibited robe was made by his lover Emilie Flöge – whose ‘reform’ designs freed women, particularly, from the constraints of tight clothing – but it does illustrate that he used his apparel to distinguish himself. Today, no matter how much they have in common, fashion and art remain uneasy bedfellows; most artists recoil from being viewed as merely fashionable. Sylvie Fleury, however, makes fashion a medium and skewers her predecessors’ haughty gravitas. Like Mondrian? Then you’ll love his painting on a dress.

Worth a look in nearby galleries are Gianfredo Camesi at Galerie Ziegler and John Baldessari at Mai 36, while the off-space Counter Space opens its new site (and reveals an open-air model) at Rämistrasse 24.

atelier oï, lighting collection Tome, 2005. Courtesy: © atelier oï

‘atelier oï: oïphorie’
Museum für Gestaltung
until 30 September

Happily, the Museum für Gestaltung has moved back into the handsome Adolf Steger and Karl Egender building it occupied since the 1930s. (Though beware that there is another site inside the massive Toni-Areal which also houses the ZHdK art school and other institutions.) The Ausstellungstrasse building’s renovation included restoration of the central, double-height exhibition space, currently beautifully occupied by installations from atelier oï, a collective of Aurel Aebi, Armand Louis and Patrick Reymond which found its name within the Russian word troïka. Since they started out in 1991 they have made their HQ the ‘Moïtel’ building in La Neuveville, at the southernmost point of Bern, where they create products, interior design, architecture and scenography. At the design museum their works are sub-divided into areas where viewers see investigative play with movements or materials evolve into finished products. Folding becomes light-pieces with accordion pleats that expand and contract in a meditative rhythm, or boat design inspires luxury furnishing. It’s archly staged, of course – that’s their business. Also – a few steps from the museum, Mark Müller is showing Christina Streuli in his gallery.

Andro Wekua, Untitled, 2017, bronze, black patina, aluminium. Courtesy: the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; photograph: Andreas Zimmermann

Andro Wekua, ‘All is Fair in Dreams and War’
Kunsthalle Zürich
9 June – 5 August

Before he moved to Berlin, Andro Wekua was a Zurich resident, so this show is a homecoming of sorts. When Bice Curiger, then curator at the Kunsthaus Zürich, included his work in her 2011 Venice Biennale, it was in the form of an architectural model. Wekua was born in Sokhumi, a city on the Black Sea, in a country (the USSR) that no longer exists and now in a state few countries recognize (Abkhazia). It was there that his father, a political activist, was assassinated, and soon after his family left the country. Wekua imagines Sokhumi, remembers it or invents it, from afar. It’s one of several motifs he returns to repeatedly, and his almost retrospective show at the Kunsthalle should illustrate how this repetition and circling around a subject evolves over time. Mannequins are another such subject, absent faces and erased features, and wolves. There will be paintings and video work too. An untitled sculpture, which has just been displayed at the Garage Museum in Moscow in a solo exhibition there, is a black wolf nosing the back of a small silver girl. It is charged with the darkness of Wekua’s oeuvre, his uneasy, uncanny aesthetic – and is a riposte to the kitsch monstrosity of the ‘Fearless Girl’ who faces off Wall Street’s charging bull. 

Gianni Motti, Uplift, 2016, Manifesta 11, Zurich. Photograph: Sonja Berta

Gianni Motti, ‘refaire le monde * EX-POSITION*’
18 May – 17 June

Gianni Motti is famous for claiming to have made soap from fat sucked from Silvio Berlisconi, or for walking through the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. In an image used to promote this exhibition the artist stands in a well-known public plaza, gazing out of the frame. We see, by his feet, to his side, a dark patch on the ground. It is a work created for Manifesta 11 in Zurich in 2016, and the photograph creates the illusion that he is levitating, but also looks like evidence. Of what? Some emission he disowns? A companion who has melted? The Helmhaus is a municipal contemporary art institution occupying a fantastic site overlooking the Limmat river in the heart of historic Zurich. Motti’s interest in places of protest and gathering continues, for the interior of the gallery has become an exterior space. Motti paves the floor with cobbles, which slows visitors’ movements and – particularly in Zurich – makes one think of a wealthy, benignly patriarchal metropolis that enables open space to flourish. (There are astonishingly low rates of theft of the metal chairs placed on two prominent city spaces.) Another space, however, is filled with coils of barbed wire. How shared is public space?

Also look out for the city-led summer-long public art exhibition at various locations, particularly in the Oerlikon district, entitled Neuer Norden Zürich.

Nicolas Party, ‘Heads’, 2018, exhibition view, Gregor Staiger, Zurich. Courtesy: © Gregor Staiger, Zurich

Nicolas Party, ‘Heads’
Gregor Staiger
9 June – 21 July

At Modern Art Oxford last winter Nicolas Party crowded five immense, decapitated heads into a gallery for his first purely sculptural exhibition. Since April a single violet-skinned and green-haired head and neck stands like an oversized skittle outside The Modern Institute in Glasgow. Now Party sets out a clear conversation between this recent strand of work and the classical sculptural tradition. Seven simple heads of varying sizes stand atop seven plinths painted to resemble differing materials. Sometimes the ratios make sense, sometimes they are absurd. Being Party works, these are intensely brightly painted, androgynous faces, and the dialogue reminds us that painted sculpture was the classical tradition, not a novelty.

You can’t miss Wade Guyton’s exhibition at Francesca Pia next door, and also worth a mention is another Staiger artist, Florian Germann, and his contribution to Zürich’s programme of events and exhibitions commemorating the 500th anniversary of Zurich’s Protestant Reformation. Germann is endlessly curious about how energy is transferred through different processes with differing outcomes, so his starting point for an exhibition at the University of Zürich was a mention, in correspondence from the reformer Heinrich Bullinger, of the city’s Grossmunster cathedral being struck by lightning in a storm. Where Germann’s meandering musings on meteorological events take him, and take form, is never predictable.


Events Around Town:
Almost every gallery in the city is open all weekend for Zurich Art Weekend, 9–10 June. Some of the many events and launches taking place in addition are:

Saturday 9 June:
‘American Apocalypse’: lecture by Laurence Rickels, psychotherapist and literary scholar
Kulturhaus Helferei, Kirchgasse 13

Matt Copson and Alastair Mackinven, ‘Reading Community Outreach Mural Workshop’
Taylor Macklin, Luegislandstrasse 105

Alastair Mackinven and Ben Wallers (from the Country Teasers), in concert 
Taylor Macklin, Luegislandstrasse 105

Sunday 10 June:
Teju Cole speaking at the official opening of his exhibition ‘Blind Spot’
Strauhof Literature Museum, Augustinergasse 9

Art Market Talk: With Kenny Schachter & Simon de Pury
schwarzescafé, Luma Westbau, Limmatstrasse 270

Artist talk with Romuald Hazoumè (in English)
Johann Jacobs Museum, Seefeldquai 17

Engadin Art Talk: Doug Aitken & Bice Curiger
schwarzescafé, Luma Westbau, Limmatstrasse 270

Main image: Gianni Motti, sans Titre, 2013, installation view, ‘Elevation 1049’, Gstaad 

Aoife Rosenmeyer is a critic, translator and occasional curator based in Zurich, Switzerland.