Some of the biggest names in contemporary art have emerged from Switzerland in recent decades. The Swiss Art Awards and Zurich’s growing appetite for international artists have provided important platforms for national talent. Here are ten of the best-known Swiss contemporary artists and the European museums and galleries that host their works.
John M Armleder at Galerie Andrea Caratsch
Working in various media, John M Armleder was a key figure in the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when he utilized John Cage’s ideas on the role of chance in creation. As one of the founders of the Geneva-based Groupe Ecart, he was involved in performance art and publications bringing new artists to Switzerland. Armleder’s work blurs the boundaries between the avant-garde and the everyday, as well as questioning the medium of the exhibition itself. His ‘Furniture Sculptures’ famously introduce furniture into the spaces and compositions of abstract paintings.
Find John M Armleder’s work at Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Via Serlas 12, St. Moritz, Switzerland, +41 81 734 00 00
Roman Signer at Kunstmuseum St.Gallen
Represented by six international galleries, Roman Signer is one of Switzerland’s most renowned artists. Yet, it could be argued that he is equally a scientist or engineer, creating ambitious experiments that he documents through film or photography. One of many such experiments involved dropping a concrete-filled briefcase from a helicopter to witness the crater it made in a field below (Attaché Case, Aktenkoffer, 1989/2001). The public aren’t invited to watch these events because Signer is not an exhibitionist, preferring to keep the creative process private within his Swiss studio in the small town of St. Gallen. Despite their humorous nature, some of his works are also quietly personal, providing a window into a very individual way of thinking.
Find Roman Signer’s work at Kunstmuseum St.Gallen, Museumstrasse 32, St.Gallen, Switzerland, +41 71 242 06 71
Valentin Carron at Galerie Eva Presenhuber
Working primarily with sculpture, Valentin Carron represented his home country at the Venice Biennale in 2013. His Swiss Pavilion featured re-conditioned Piaggio Ciao mopeds, crushed musical instruments cast in bronze, mosaics inspired by stained glass, and a long iron snake weaving throughout the rooms. With these works there is a sense that he has tried to preserve nostalgic items. At the same time he questions the authenticity of objects associated with the past – his 40-foot replica of a black wooden cross outside Art Basel in 2009 mimicked additions to the Swiss countryside that create an artificial rural heritage. Carron has even critiqued famous works, manufacturing his own versions of post-war modern art by artists like Alberto Giacometti.
Find Valentin Carron’s work at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zahnradstrasse 21, Zurich, Switzerland, +41 43 444 70 50
Thomas Hirschhorn at Stephen Friedman Gallery
The installations for which Thomas Hirschhorn is renowned are invitations for viewers to reflect on the world. Often politically motivated, they focus on highly contentious issues like recent wars or the values of democracy. Perhaps making a statement about elitism in art, his constructions use mass-produced materials and objects that are available to all. Hirschhorn’s interest in social and cultural theories has remained a part of his work since the 1980s when he produced graphics with a creative communist group called Grapus. Located in New York’s Bronx neighborhood, his 2013 public art project Gramsci Monument is one of an international series that pay homage to philosophers he admires, such as Baruch Spinoza, Gilles Deleuze, Georges Bataille and Antonio Gramsci.
Find Thomas Hirschhorn’s work at Stephen Friedman, 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7494 1434
Pamela Rosenkranz at Kunsthaus Zürich
Drawing upon contemporary culture, the multidisciplinary approach of Pamela Rosenkranz explores themes such as modern technology, globalization and environmentalism. Her sculptures and installations sometimes feature objects from current global visual culture, such as bottles from soft drinks manufacturers. Rosenkranz’s 2014 exhibition, ‘My Sexuality’, featured paintings where skin pigments dripped down aluminum surfaces in a gallery wrapped in transparent plastic. The artist took the drug Viagra before she painted them as a creative experiment. She also projected blue and red lights onto works and diffused synthetic cat pheromones into the room to influence the sensual response of visitors. Rosenkranz was chosen to represent Switzerland at the 2015 Venice Biennale following a string of participation in several international biennials of recent years.
Find Pamela Rosenkranz’s work at Kunsthaus Zürich, Heimplatz 1, Zurich, Switzerland, +41 44 253 84 84
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