In Switzerland, as incredible as it may seem to you, there has been a big war going on in recent years.
Basel and Zurich are fighting over the crown of art and culture.
And the competition is enormous.
Having lived in Basel for many years and knowing first hand the canton’s attempt to become the capital of culture, I can safely say that they have succeeded.
ArtBasel, for example, is the world’s biggest art event.
The Fondation Beyeler Museum, a private magnificent building full of treasures and interesting exhibitions, holds the highest attendance for a museum in the country.
The FHNW Academy of Art and Design, a modern futuristic school, was built to accommodate art students from all over Europe
On the other hand Zurich…
With the new Film Festival, aspires to become a reference for film festivals in the country, growing more and more every year and attracting the spotlight with its glamorous guests.
Τhe Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University Of The Arts) moved to its own campus. Τhe impressive Toni Areal, a former dairy factory, was transformed into a center for culture and education – a project on a scale that surpassed anything else in Europe.
But what about the Old Kunsthaus Zurich?
Unfortunately, we have to say that there is a disappointing difference…
The old glory days are gone.
And the halls of the old building seem to have been left behind several years and visitors resent it.
The old Kunsthaus (and probably the whole country) had been hit by the big scandal of 2008. The robbery of the Buehrle Collection was one of the fastest in history!
It reportedly took the thieves just three minutes to steal the Paul Cézanne’s Boy in a Red Vest (1890), the Edgar Degas’ Viscount Lepic and his Daughters (1871), the Claude Monet’s Poppies near the Vetteille (1880) and Vincent van Gogh’s Flowering Chestnut Branches (1890).
The speed and brutality of the robbery stunned many. The robbers, wearing ski masks, pinned guards and other employees to the floor and ripped paintings off the wall while one of them threatened staff with an automatic weapon. Although the Buehrle Collection has a sophisticated alarm system, the robbers escaped long before the police arrived. And although Swiss authorities stress that the country’s borders are constantly monitored, there is no doubt that the robbery is a blow to the image of a country that prides itself in the security it offers.
Zurich had to raise its head and go on the offensive.
Of course, it did so in a spectacular way.
Last October, a major new extension to the Kunsthaus Zurich, built by British architect David Chipperfield at a cost of $230 Million Dollars.
The new extension to the Kunsthaus Zurich finally opened its doors to the general public last October. This was thought to end the war and finally give Zurich the much desired crown of art and culture.
For sentimental reasons, Basel for me will always be my homeland.
This is why I will never be able to objectively criticize the city that embraced me more than any other.
But I have to admit that this new architectural jewel built in the city I live in today, and which I have started to love so much, exceeds all my expectations.
Bright warm marbles in elegant form with gold braids, handrails, signs, lettering, and doors.
The main entrance, inspired by Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, connecting the square to a sculpture garden with works by Dan Graham, Pipilotti Rist and Auguste Rodin.
Of course, here the old building is connected to the new one by a tunnel as well as in Basel.
I don’t know if we’re really talking about two cities’ museums competing or the rivalry of Hollywood stars like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
I‘ve been up and down the stunning stairs countless times .
The light coming into the wonderfully large rooms is redemptive of the paintings and collections .
Of course you must first visit the Bührle collection, an acquisition of 200 works, including paintings by Monet, Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin and Van Gogh.
The art works are magical as if they were deliberately chosen to create a rare gallery of their own.
The Kunsthaus and its director, Christoph Becker, face complaints that it has not yet done what is needed to address the difficult legacy of E. G. Bührle, the arms dealer to whom it partly owes its existence. Bührle sold arms to Nazi Germany and the Allies in World War II. He also bought looted art from the Nazis. The Canton citizens are pressuring the city mayor to take on the “purity” of the collection by creating a documentation center set up by independent experts to inform visitors about Bührle’s use of slaves to make weapons, artwork bought by the Nazis or sold under duress by Jewish collectors.
Of course a visit to the other rooms and the private collections of Werner Merzbacher is absolutely essential.
Includes paintings by Monet, Cézanne, Renoir and the artists of the Brücke movement, Hubert Looser, with works by Jackson Pollock, Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin.
My favourite room overlooking a piece of the garden is the small collection of Cy Twombly’s works.
Please check the “Goethe in Italy”. It is adorable.
The goal of Chipperfield was , the museum extension to transform the square as an intersection of three major roads – into a new urban centre for the fine arts .Already around the Heimplatz famous galerists such as Eva Presenhuber , Galerie Bromer and of course our favourite Hauser & Wirth have opened their spaces .(If you ever go to New York you must visit the Hauser & Wirth , it is the size of a museum and sets the trends in art )
And a pleasant surprise that came to my ears from Amsterdam: in 2023 the famous Anne Demester, the current director of the Franz Hals Museum in Haarlem will take over the direction of the Kunsthaus.
Let’s hope we don’t see the much-feared Dutch recipe with the marriage of old masters and young artists again, because we will be bored to death.
In the end, Museumsshop is really a fabullous choice for those who want to gift something special and with quality.
For the restaurant I will not make any mention . Attractive at first glance , but better buy a Matisse , it will actually cost you less than the tasteless salad you will eat.
On the way out and as it’s starting to snow, I think about how much joy a work of art can fill you with.
How many secret passages it can open up in your mind.
Unfortunately I cannot separate any involvement of art with fascism .
I demand to know every detail, every injustice or conspiracy.
Every palm that violently snatched these treasures from their owners.
All these details are an integral part of the artwork now.
The shame…. The pain and tears have been recorded on the colοurs and frames.
It’s an unbreakable piece of art.
That’s why it’s worth knowing.
Οtherwise it’s “art that swims in blood and silence”.