Magazine article Art Monthly

Home to the Absurd

Magazine article Art Monthly

Home to the Absurd

Article excerpt

Two years ago (Report AM342), the people of Zurich voted against the SFr5.9m Nagelhaus by Thomas Demand and Caruso St John Architects, a public art project which was to find a niche beneath an overpass in the centre of the city's rapidly evolving Zuri West district. Ironically, the work now seems redundant, as just like the 'nail house' in Chongquing that inspired Demand, one property owner refused to sell to city authorities in the service of westward progress, so half of a dignified but ramshackle building stubbornly remains in the shadow of the tallest building in the city, the new Primetower. The firewall at its raw gable end became the site of a Pierre Haubensak wall work last year when the city's Art in Public Space Working Group (AG KioR) accepted his proposal to celebrate the suture of old and new development.

Perhaps mindful of the Nagelhaus debacle and the tendency of far right politicians to quash loudly any cultural spending, AG KioR's latest major production was publicised only two months in advance. Art and the City was to be a festival of outdoor sculpture set to take place in Zurich over this summer and featuring some 40-odd temporary installations or actions, from Martin Creed's famous neon Everything Is Going To Be Alright, 1999/2012, to Charlotte Posenenske's Vierkantrohre Serie D, 1967/2012, ventilation ducts and San Keller's performance piece Canti e grida, 2012. Two thirds of the SFr2.1m budget was to come from private sources, with SFr700,000 from city coffers. But the Swiss People's Party (SVP) still attempted to scupper the event. A day after the initial publicity the SVP suggested that the politician responsible had previously understated the budget, not to mention that it wasn't in the city's remit to install 'an accessible rubbish tip' (exactly which work this was a critique of was not immediately evident). The SVP's motion to pull the municipal funding was rejected, and so on 9 June Art and the City began. Locations were concentrated in the centre of the city and, again, on its rapidly changing western fringes surrounding the Hardbrucke. Despite the budget, the event was not an unmitigated success. While works like Posenenske's metal pieces were beautifully poised to almost blend into their environments and Franziska Furter's mobile Mojo, 2012, made out of individually kitschy wind chimes created a cumulative bouquet of colour hanging from a railway bridge, many works were not remotely site specific, others were not well installed and Matt Mullican's map of the locations was designed to confuse. When the event ended in mid September most of the works disappeared, though four remain: Valentin Carron's Ca-tarac-ta, Saadane Afif's The Soapbox of Schiffbauplatz and the towering figure Vanessa by Alex Hanimann, which were bought by a local property firm and will continue to be accessible to the public, and Catedrales by Los Carpinteros, which has been purchased by a private foundation and is likely to remain in situ close to the mooted Nagelhaus site for at least 10 years.

The Zurich art scene indoors has just passed a significant milestone, as the Kunsthalle and Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst have returned to the now refurbished Lowenbrauareal, the former brewery they had been forced to vacate for two years. With them are commercial spaces Freymond-Guth fine arts, Francesca Pia, Bob van Orsouw, Gregor Staiger and Hauser & Wirth, an exhibition space for Parkett magazine editions and the bookshop Kunstgriff, not to mention offices of JRP Ringier Art Press and the LUMA foundation. …

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