From Art to Zurich

Fast Lane

Exploring the Swiss center of culture and design

Zurich is one of the world’s leading art trade centers. It’s home to more than 100 art galleries and 50 museums. Fourteen of these museums are dedicated to art; including the Kunsthaus Zurich (Museum of Fine Arts,) the Swiss National Museum containing the largest collection of items relating to Swiss cultural history, and the Rietberg Museum, one of the most important centers of non-European art in the world. As well as being an interesting city to explore for a weekend away, the opportunity to pick up some unique artwork may be better here than any other European city.

“Zurich is the town with the most galleries in Switzerland,” says Sarah Merten, with Galerie Alexander E. Raber, a downtown gallery specializing in contemporary Swiss and German art. “Everyone will find what he is looking for.”

Galerie Alexander E. Raber is unique in that they represent 15 permanent artists with an emphasis on paintings and bronze-sculptures, but also graphic art, objects and installations. Merten says their model is rare.

“The permanent representation permits us to accompany the artistic changes and developments of our artists over a long time,” she explains. “We live in such a busy and fast moving world, but art needs its time to grow and settle.”

Not one style seems to be more popular with her clients, paintings as well as sculptures are both fashionable. According to Merten, Swiss artists need to be appreciated abroad before they’ll see success at home.

“Switzerland is a very small country and it’s accordingly very difficult to earn your money with art,” she says. “As a successful artist in Switzerland, you first have to be well known in, for example, Paris, Berlin, New York. This success will float back to Switzerland’s art market, because everyone acts on these foreign and important art markets.”

Rolf Zeigler is one Swiss artist represented by Galerie Alexander E. Raber. Merten says he uses a mixed technique for his paintings, including acrylic, oil and air brush. Another Swiss artist, Sonja Schmid also uses a mixed technique. Merten says her paintings “fascinate because of their integral harmony.”

Laura Jaggi is with Kunst im West gallery. She believes there’s no scientific process when it comes to buying art.

“People buy things that strike them – the decision is made spontaneously, you like it or you don’t,” she believes.

She also advises people to “buy what they like” and not necessarily for any potential investment purposes. Merten agrees.

“We want to make people enjoy art,” she says. “Everyone needs beautiful pieces around himself, just to make the heart happy.”

So where in Zurich should we go to make the heart happy with art? Oliver Guggisberg, the operation manager for media from Zurich Tourism recommends the Ramistrasse “”art mile,”” where the galleries are just a few minutes’ walk apart, or the former grounds of the Lowenbrau brewery, where they are next door to each other. Dada fans must visit the Dadahaus for its exhibitions, events and bar. Classic modernist art can be found at Art Forum Ute Barth; Baviera is a leading gallery for figurative art. If pop and 3D art, comics and animation are more your style, head to Foxx Galerie. If you are looking for an auction experience, visit Galerie Koller, Switzerland’s largest auction house. They offer contemporary art, medieval paintings, 18th century furniture, Asiatic art, Art Nouveau pieces as well as antique engravings. And this is just a sample; galleries representing British art, art from Cuba, African art and photography can all be found here.

Artists aren’t the only ones being creatively inspired by Zurich’s fresh air and innovative culture. Plenty of designers are devising a variety of fun goodies. Take the Freitag Shop. Its building is made from 17 rusty freight containers. The bags produced by the Freitag brothers are colorful, handmade and created from recycled street material like bicycle tire inner tubes and exhaust-stained truck tarpaulins. Shoe fanatics will want to stop by Konix, where each pair is lovingly displayed, artfully on its own pedestal. ‘50’s and ‘60’s kitsch lovers will do well to visit Timetunnel, a center for retro design pieces, including furniture and sunglasses. A visit to the Zurich Museum of Design will offer you a glimpse into a variety of exciting projects going on in the city, including design, new media, architecture and visual communication.

But there’s so much more to this compact city than shopping and art. Sports fans are aware that, along with Austria, Switzerland is hosting the Euro 2008 football championship in June. Nestled against Lake Zurich, plenty of boating and swimming opportunities abound. Hikers will appreciate Uetliberg, the city’s “mountain” which offers Alpine hiking and photographic opportunities. Cheese, chocolate? Is there anything else to Swiss cuisine? Yes, and you can experience it all here as Zurich has one restaurant per 180 inhabitants. Art lovers should be sure to dine at the Kronenhalle, known for its art collection. A full range of cultural opportunities, including opera, ballet and theater; as well as the country’s most lively nightlife can be found in Zurich. And what’s to be done after all that shopping, hiking and eating? Guggisberg has an idea.

“If you want to relax, have a glass of Zurich wine on top of the Uetliberg and enjoy the superb panoramic view over Zurich, the lake and the snowy mountains.”