PRINT Summer 2001


the Daros Collection

“SKIS WITH VALENTINO, dines with Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor . . . lives on the Concorde.” Remember the roaring '80s when Zurich-based art dealer deluxe Thomas Ammann trotted the globe, carting home the finest art of the day? The boldface credentials appeared in a Vanity Fair profile five years before Ammann's premature death in 1993. In the same article, fellow dealer Bruno Bischofberger appraised, “Certainly Thomas has become the top dealer of his generation, and he did it without a cent from his family.” Where did the money come from? “Very few people knew,” says Peter Fischer, curator of the Daros Collection, the Zurich institution that has just made public the huge trove Ammann assembled with his friend and chief backer, the late Alexander Schmidheiny of the Swiss industrial and banking family. The decision to unveil the collection was reached years ago by the latter's brother, businessman and philanthropist Stephan Schmidheiny, who wished not only to find a permanent venue in Zürich to display the work but also to continue collecting. To the Daros Collection, which focuses on art from the United States, he has added Daros Contemporary, which will support young local artists, and Daros Latin America.

The collection's first exhibit opened May 4 in a beautifully renovated space in the old Löwenbräu brewery on Limmatstrasse, a building that is also home to the Kunsthalle Zürich, the Migros Museum, and a number of important galleries. Titled “In the Power of Painting 1,” the show focuses on just three artists—Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter—and makes it abundantly clear that this is not just any hoard of contemporary art. In fact, it includes one of the world's top collections of early Warhol. And some of the Polkes on view, such as Untitled (Double Portrait), 1963-64, have seldom been seen and rarely, if ever, reproduced. Ammann was closely associated with the '80s painting boom, but the collection also includes major works by artists such as Barbara Kruger, Alfredo Jaar, and Louise Bourgeois; all three are slated for upcoming shows. The arrival of the Daros Collection not only affirms the Löwenbräu plant's status as a center of gravity in the Swiss art world, but makes it one of the most important addresses for contemporary art in Europe. Still not impressed? Where else would a beleaguered art pilgrim discover a dozen pieces of excellent chocolate in his press pack?

Daniel Bimbaurn is a contributing editor of Artforum.