PRINT Summer 2000


Dream Houses

Lest you think that all is Sturm und Drang in the Swiss scene, two building projects—one coming to completion this summer, the other just breaking ground—are happy occasions, replete with star international architects and promising programs.

The Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, long a partner with the Kunstmuseum Basel, recently established the Laurenz Foundation to support a curious hybrid building there called the Viewing Warehouse. “The project came to me out of a bad dream I’ve been having about poodles,” Maja Oeri says mischievously. Oeri is the president of the Hoffmann Foundation—actually a third-generation president. “My grandmother, Maja Hoffmann, created the foundation and made a contract with the Kunstmuseum in 1941 that they show whatever they want of the collection. The two crucial mandates are conservation and to not just collect but to exhibit our art. But with about 400 works, we can only display five percent at any one time In the Kunstmuseum.”

Oeri hired her childhood friends, the architects Herzog & de Meuron (who just designed London’s massive Tate Modern, where Oeri sits on the council for the museum) to create a novel structure that is essentially a 190,000-square-foot holding space for uncrated artworks, hung or situated In the open on its five floors. That is where the poodles come in.

“I wake up in the middle of the night with this fear about Katharina Fritsch’s installation Child with Poodles,” Oeri says. Each of the 224 sculptures of poodles is stored in a separate crate, she adds, so “you have no idea what’s happening to them, whether each one is all right, what the climate is doing to them. It is really a bad dream. And our collection goes from an 1890 Ensor oil to video works by Gary Hill to our latest acquisition, a new painting by Elizabeth Peyton. So you can control the works: conditions better If you can see them.”

Scheduled for completion in 2003, the Viewing Warehouse is designed as an imposing mass with a chiseled facade and three large LED screens on its front. Professionals and students will come by appointment to study the collection. The public can visit two cavernous galleries showing Fritsch’s 1993 Rat King and Robert Gober’s Untitled, 1995–97.

Meanwhile, in Lucerne, the prominent French architect Jean Nouvel’s new building for the Kunstmuseum Luzern opens June 19. Ulrich Loock, the outspoken director of the institution since 1997 and a vocal champion of contemporary art, intends to create “Interventions,” as he puts it, juxtaposing new art with works from the permanent collection going back to the sixteenth century. He unveils his 20,000 square feet of pristine exhibition space with a maiden show called “Mixing Memory and Desire,” which includes Brice Marden, Vanessa Beecroft, Franz West, and Marlene Dumas, among some thirty-five others. The theme, pondering the “construction of (dis-) identity,” sounds somehow hopeful, with a jigger of wormwood thrown in to give it a wicked edge. The Swiss art world today to a tee?

Steven Henry Madoff