Power Map


Left: Artist Mark Handforth with Eva Presenhuber's Thomas Jarek. Right: Hauser & Wirth's Roger Tatley with artist Isaac Julien. (All photos: Eva Scharrer)

Zurich’s gallery districts are ordered according to their own idiosyncratic hierarchy, though the division is somewhat comparable to other cities. (There are still “uptown” galleries and “downtown” ones.) The younger dealers and offbeat spaces have moved to the red-light district behind the train station, global players like Hauser & Wirth and Eva Presenhuber have their headquarters in the Löwenbräu building on Limmatstrasse, and the city center hosts more “classic” galleries. (As everywhere, exceptions confirm the rule.) The scattered layout makes for three days of season openings, which kicked off on Wednesday with the galleries around the notorious Langstrasse, where I followed word-of-mouth recommendations (and flocks of hipsters) to various spots not on the official gallery map.

Zurich’s vibrant array of “off-the-map” spaces constitute a significant portion of the burgeoning Swiss art scene. One of those that is still off the map but now successfully on the radar is artist-cum-dealer Jean-Claude Freymond-Guth, who founded the nonprofit space Les Complices while still in art school. Freymond-Guth has reopened his gallery in a new space with a compelling video installation by Elodie Pong, featuring stuffed birds discussing the global economy. The space was still packed when it turned dark, which in Zurich is about 10 PM, and the crowd was so vivacious that the dealer apparently postponed his dinner plans to stay and cavort. Later, Freymond-Guth noted that he thought that Presenhuber, too, had started out as an artist. Aha! On the street, I bumped into a beaming but hurried Marc Spiegler, who was rushing from Freymond-Guth to Ryan McLaughlin’s opening at Groeflin Maag. He excused his haste by explaining that he’d had a late start, as he couldn’t bear leaving the hospital and his recently born child. He wouldn’t give the baby’s name, however. “I don’t want my offspring to be spoiled by the art world just yet.” Who can blame him?

Left: Dealer Jean-Claude Freymond-Guth with artist Elodie Pong. Right: Standard Oslo's Eivind Furnesvik with Gavin Brown's Alex Zachary.

Friday night featured less running but more pushing as I navigated the crowds clogging the staircase of the Löwenbräu building. In Tadeusz Kantor’s posthumous Gesamtkunstwerk-like exhibition at the Migros Museum, I ran across Felicity Lunn, still director of Kunstverein Freiburg (she announced her resignation in March, citing the institution’s dramatic financial restrictions), in conversation with Frank Schmidt, curator of the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden. Schmidt filled me in on his current plans: a show with German rock legend Udo Lindenberg—apparently a dedicated figurative painter. Live and learn. Next door, Peter Kilchmann celebrated his gallery’s fifteenth anniversary with a group show and a solo exhibition of Los Angeles–based painter Raffi Kalenderian. On the stairs to the top floor, I bumped into Hauser & Wirth’s Roger Tatley, who made the climb on crutches. “Surf accident,” he explained.

Derek Jarman: Brutal Beauty” at the Kunsthalle Zürich was among the evening’s highlights. The homage to the late artist and filmmaker was curated by Isaac Julien and originally conceived for London’s Serpentine Gallery. I was not the only person surprised to encounter Jarman’s abstract paintings from the 1980s or the only one to learn that Jarman saw himself more as an artist than a filmmaker. The show commenced with Julien’s own portrait of Jarman, a double projection featuring material from his new film, Derek (2008), starring Tilda Swinton, and ended with Jarman’s beautiful yet harrowing Blue (1993), which features a blue-screen projection (in homage to Yves Klein) and sound track in which Jarman talks about AIDS and the experience of going blind.

Left: Dany Boler, Joelle Allet, and Kunsthalle St. Gallen director Giovanni Carmine. Right: Art Basel director Marc Spiegler and Phaidon's Michele Robecchi at Gallery Bob van Orsouw.

But the evening wasn’t meant to be one of contemplation. “It’s fantastic how many people come together here—all these openings in one house!” Julien frolicked. “See you at the party downstairs.” Soon thereafter, however, Julien and I found ourselves fleeing the crowds in the Löwenbräu courtyard in favor of the private dinner hosted by Presenhuber for artists Mark Handforth and Josh Smith, each of whom had opened a solo show in one of the gallery’s two venues. It is indeed a privilege to wait seated for one’s food instead of standing in a sixty-foot-long line. And the company—which included the Modern Institute’s Andrew Hamilton, Gavin Brown’s Alex Zachary, and Basel-based critic-curator Daniel Baumann—wasn’t bad, either. (I was even more grateful for the invitation when I later compared notes with Tatley, who had attended the Löwenbräu party. Apparently, a drunken local fell out of the elevator that doubles as a vodka bar and then ran off with Tatley’s crutches.) I caught the rest of a live sound performance by artists Luke Fowler, Lee Patterson, and Tomas Korber before being driven back home to Basel in the illustrious company of the Kunsthalle Basel’s past and current presidents, Peter Handschin and Martin Hatebur, as well as Christine Binswanger, a partner at Herzog & de Meuron.

On Saturday I skipped Zurich’s uptown receptions in favor of Mark Wallinger’s opening at the Aargauer Kunsthaus in Aarau, the inaugural exhibition organized by the space’s new director, Madeleine Schuppli, and another highlight of this arty weekend. The dinner was held on the museum’s rooftop, where I had the great pleasure to sit at a beer table with Wallinger, his family, and our mutual friends the always-jovial artist couple Suzanne Treister and Richard Grayson. Facing a magnificent view of the mountains at dusk, Wallinger enthusiastically proclaimed that the roof had the feeling of a flying carpet.

Eva Scharrer

Left: Artist Mark Wallinger with dealer Anthony Reynolds. Right: Artists Richard Grayson and Suzanne Treister.

Left: Dealer Davia Maag, artist Ryan McLaughlin, and dealer Claudia Groeflin. Right: Kunstverein Freiburg director Felicity Lunn and Museum Frieder Burda curator Frank Schmidt.

Left: Artist Anders Guggisberg with Kunsthaus Zürich curator Mirjam Varadinis. Right: Artist Costa Vece with former Kunsthalle Basel president Peter Handschin.