What's on in Switzerland: Johns, Gorky, Modigliani and light

The arts continue to flourish despite deep cuts to grants


In Geneva, the local authorities have cut grants for the arts to the bone. However, thanks to Swiss collections, particularly those of the Cabinet des Estampes in Geneva, the Rath Museum will be able to show the engravings of Piranesi until 18 November. The walls upon which they are displayed have been repainted a voluptuous Pompeian red. There were to have been 400 engravings, but the commissioner, Rainer Michael Mason, said: “305 are more than enough for the public to absorb”. The Baur collection, which specialises in the Far East, is presenting an exhibition entitled “Satsuma”, until 21 October. The museum has a collection of these turn-of-the-century Japanese ceramics in store, and has brought out about forty of them to put on exhibition. They are decorated down to the last millimetre. Visitors would be advised to take a magnifying-glass. In Lausanne, the Musée Cantonale des Beaux Arts is still waiting for a curator to replace Erika Billeter. In the meantime, on 11 November, the museum - where any temporary exhibition means that the collections have to be moved into the stores due to lack of space - will be showing unpublished works on paper by the Armenian American Arshile Gorky (1905-48).

These come from a collection which has remained in the family. Gorky, who follows on from Eric Fischl, is completely unknown in Switzerland. François Bocion, on the other hand, is a local hero. The Hermitage Foundation (semi-private) will be showing his work until 21 January in order to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Bocion specialised in depicting still waters, particularly Lake Geneva, which he must have painted down to the last drop judging from the number of pictures that remain. The Hermitage will be exhibiting 150 of his works. Bern has an inexhaustible source of funding in the Paul Klee Foundation, which is responsible for a host of exhibitions these days. The Swiss-German painter died in 1940 in Ticino. Therefore the fiftieth anniversary of his death is in full swing.

Until 4 November, the Kunstmuseum will be presenting 380 canvases, watercolours and drawings from 1940. Of these 1950 have been lent specially for the occasion. For Klee fans, the catalogue ends with the last volume of the catalogue raisonné of his work. The Kunsthaus in Zurich is showing “Le paysage en lumière” until 21 October. This exhibition was co-produced with Cologne and has already been shown there. It consists of about 200 canvases from approximately ninety public and private collections all over the world (e.g. Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Prado and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow). The aim is to show that the study of light was a preoccupation common to the European, Russian and American landscape painters of the second half of the nineteenth century. Therefore, the exhibition is geared to a vast audience, the nature of which can only lead to a repetition of the sensation produced in May by the Kunstgesellschaft.

The latter intends to sell two Renoirs which it has in store and buy a real Baselitz “wall”. Another attraction is Giovanni Segantini, of whom there will be a retrospective at the end of the year. The Kunstmuseum in Basle is fresh from the success of “Picasso, Braque and the birth of Cubism”, which attracted 214,000 visitors and sold over 30,000 catalogues, so it can easily afford to put on Jasper Johns. This time it is drawings from 1954 to 1988, an exhibition which has been in Washington. It will run until 28 October. Johns is a favourite of the Kunstmuseum. It owns a large collection of his drawings and engravings. In complete contrast to this is the exhibition at the Historisches Museum in Basle, entitled “Apprivoisé et sauvage”, which runs until 18 November. It consists of a collection of rather worn, and mainly small, tapestries woven in the fifteenth century in Basle and Strasbourg. Since the Historisches Museum is housed in a large gothic church, the Barfusskirche, the effect cannot help being evocative.

There is more outdoor painting at Lugano Castagnola, where the Villa Favorita is presenting “American Impressionism” until 28 October. The Modigliani exhibition at the Gianadda Foundation in Martigny (until 28 October) is enjoying great success. It has attracted 50,000 people in just under a month. Heralded by a great fanfare of publicity, the exhibition also enjoys the loyal custom of the clientele that the foundation has won with exhibitions such as Goya, Moore and Toulouse-Lautrec. On the walls, which have been re-painted grey, there are sixty paintings and sixty drawings by Modigliani, with loans from museums such as the Met and the Beaubourg. Léonard Gianadda, whom the press nickname “the wizard of Martigny” might well be pleased with himself. Few private galleries have achieved such results.