Zurichers do not want to pay 5.9m CHF for a shitter, judging by the results of the referendum on 26 September. The succinct precis (5,9 Mio fur e Schiissi!) by the infamous Swiss People's Party (SVP) halted the Nagelhaus, a public artwork conceived by Thomas Demand and Caruso St John Architects. The project was intended to imitate the 'nailhouse' phenomenon in Chongquing where in protest against rapacious development owners refused to abandon their homes. In Zurich the building would have been wedged under the Escher-Wyss-Platz flyover amid a tangle of tramlines, appearing as if the road had been built around it, and inside there was to be a cafe, a kiosk and indeed the public toilets that the SVP found so overpriced.
Whatever one's opinion of the Demand/Caruso St John project, the campaign against it was dominated by the squabble over costs; there was little or no discussion of its artistic merit. The proposed location, Escher-Wyss-Platz, is at the front line of rapid development north and westwards in the city, forced in that direction by mountains and the lake that hem the other sides. (It was also Friedrich Christian Flick's chosen location for his private museum, though public protest about the source of his family's wealth and his refusal to pay reparations forced him out of Zurich in 2001 and into the arms of Berlin and the Hamburger Bahnhof.)
Despite the referendum, commercial and not-for-profit spaces are influenced by and, in turn, influencing the changing cityscape. Escher-Wyss-Platz and Hardstrasse, which runs through it, once marked the border between urban and industrial Zurich, but urban and art spaces are spreading beyond this limit. A few blocks away on Limmatstrasse, the Lowenbrauareal, the former brewery that until this summer was home to two major contemporary galleries--the Kunsthalle and the Migros Museum--is being redeveloped into luxury apartments and business units (including galleries), so its residents have dispersed. This time the same city authorities which failed to support the Nagelhaus project had more success working behind the scenes, finding a home for several Lowenbrauareal residents in a corporation building 3km away in a quieter suburb, thus sustaining the concentration of cultural venues. The two-year stopgap the city offered, Hubertus Exhibitions, opened with great fanfare on 24 September. Swarms of visitors descended: Galerie Bob van Orsouw was inaugurated with solo shows by new gallery artists Paul Morrison and local cult photographer Walter Pfeiffer; next door Hauser & Wirth showed off a monumental marble bucket, barrel and tiffin by Subodh Gupta.
Migros Museum's first exhibition at Hubertus, 'An Idea, a Form, a Being', investigates corporeal gestures, from the political to the poetic. The works on show by contemporary artists, bookended by pieces from the late, great Alina Szapocznikow, are of a lightness and scale that would have been drowned by the museum's last location. On paper, an exhibition that places Teresa Margolles's 37 Bodies, 2007, a long string of thread remainders from autopsies, alongside Martin Soto Climent's Desire, 2009, a cartoonish huddle of glasses cases turned inside out so that the fabric linings stick out like tongues, may sound the height of crassness, but the restraint of the particular works chosen and their installation strikes many simultaneous notes on the register of the bodily, from the cartoonish to the desperate, in a manner that offers new perspectives on each. …