To the Limmat


Left: Brian Kerstetter and artist Olaf Breuning. Right: Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer, Migros Museum director Heike Munder, and dealer Giangi Fonti. (All photos: Eva Scharrer)

Zurich’s annual season kickoff is a three-day marathon of openings distributed throughout the city’s three main gallery districts. But the real highlight is Friday night’s joint venture at the Löwenbräu-Areal on Limmatstrasse, where the Swiss art world converges to wheel new deals. It’s a convenient location, as the bulk of the major galleries and institutions all share the same building, with an additional handful across the street. I began the evening’s jaunt at de Pury & Luxembourg, where Jimmie Durham was showing over thirty objects made over the past eleven years along with his 2002 film The Pursuit of Happiness, starring Anri Sala. One of the new sculptures—a car smashed with a large rock and aptly titled Alpine Substance on Wolfsburg Construction—recalled Maurizio Cattelan’s meteoric tribute to Pope John Paul II, La Nona Ora, crossed with Damián Ortega's VW Beetle. Durham himself hadn’t yet arrived, so I made my way toward the recently opened digs of Lange & Pult, where Lori Hersberger was debuting with his show “Smooth Transition” (perhaps a hopeful description of his move from Bob van Orsouw, just across the street). Next was Terry Rodgers’s Swiss solo debut at Nicola von Senger. What can I say? Baroque, realist paintings of decadent society parties; depictions of crowds of the rich and beautiful, half naked and practically lathered in ennui. It’s art for people who hope to spice up their lives by buying into a lifestyle they themselves can only covet. More substantial fare could be found around the corner at Rachel Khedoori’s exhibition at Hauser & Wirth. Here, the widow of Jason Rhoades showed several sculptures of abstract, model-size rooms, each inhabited by bits of uncanny matter.

But without a doubt the show that stole the most hearts was Olaf Breuning at the Migros Museum. Breuning has a special quality, one largely endemic to the Swiss, but which few are able to harness with such finesse. Let’s call it the giggle factor. Wandering through the installation of odd, wooden sculptures peppered with handmade candles and mazes of crates decorated with tiny drawings and photographic tableaus made for a tour of comedic genius. As the show progressed, snickering erupted into flat-out laughter, and by the time everyone reached the film Home 2, featuring at one point an actor on a hilariously disturbing voyage in Africa, one could see people wiping the tears from their eyes; in Breuning’s work, humor and pain lie in close proximity. The hero of the day was the film’s protagonist, Brian Kerstetter. Waiting nearby, I witnessed several (female) curators approach him and exclaim euphorically: “I love you . . . in that film!“ “You are so funny!” “You are such a great actor!” etc. “Actually, I’m not an actor,” he replied humbly. “Olaf and I became friends in New York, and I guess we just share the same totally stupid, primitive sense of humor.” Later, Breuning explained, “He is usually rather shy, and a great and sensitive writer.”

Left: Kunsthalle Zurich director Beatrix Ruf with critic and curator Daniel Baumann. Right: Dealer Stefano W. Pult with artist Lori Hersberger.

Downstairs, the traditional summer party in the courtyard was already in full swing. (All the galleries participate, excepting de Pury, which pulled out this year in favor of a private dinner held in its space.) The nice thing about the event is that it is truly democratic—everybody is in the same place, there’s open seating at the wooden beer tables, and a smorgasbord of multiculti fast food is served buffet-style. On the other hand, its major flaw is that it’s truly democratic. “I’m always saying we should do the VIP thing,” grumbled one assistant curator while we waited in line for drinks. Impatient, I zigzagged through the crowd and found entertaining company at a table with Migros director Heike Munder, Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer, dealer Giangi Fonti, and author/columnist Sibylle Berg. Elsewhere, at the Hauser & Wirth table, Mick Flick and Iwan Wirth were engaged in serious conversation; one can only speculate how much the Friedrich Christian Flick collection expanded that night.

Soon enough, I found myself dragged to a bar installed in the building’s freight elevator, where two smooth guys served oysters and vodka shots to an illustrious crowd. “My technicians,” remarked Munder, with a trace of motherly pride. Maybe it was the elevator’s up-and-down, but oysters and vodka don’t sit well in a mostly empty stomach, so I ran off to grab something more substantial. Meanwhile, rumor grew of an “illegal” after-party on the second floor of the warehouse space next door above de Pury. (Funny how the term illegal is always read as code for fun.) Who could resist? The party didn’t precisely match Terry Rodgers’s lurid canvases, but, having already missed the last train home, I hit the dance floor.

Eva Scharrer

Left: (Clockwise from left) Mick Flick and Iwan Wirth with a friend. Right: Simon de Pury, journalist Marc Spiegler, and Michaela Neumeister, senior partner at Phillips de Pury.

Left: Kunstverein Freiburg director Felicity Lunn with Kunsthaus Baselland director Sabine Schaschl-Cooper. Right: Artist Costa Vece.

Left: Erica Dubach with artist Julieta Aranda. Right: Kunsthalle St. Gallen director Giovanni Carmine.