Cabaret Voltaire, birthplace of Dada, could be yours for $13m

Zurich theatre where the movement was founded 100 years ago is facing an uncertain future


Founded in 1916 by a group of artists in Zurich—led by Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings, and followed by Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Tristan Tzara—Dada marks its centenary this year. In the middle of the celebrations, the Cabaret Voltaire, the birthplace of the movement, is seeking CHF13m ($13.1m) to secure its future, reports Swissinfo.

The cabaret was saved once before, in 2002. Artists led by Mark Divo calling themselves the neo-Dadaists occupied the building at Spiegelgasse 1 to protest against a plan to convert it into luxury apartments. The Cabaret Voltaire reopened as a cultural venue in 2004, supported by municipal subsidies.

Today, the Cabaret Voltaire is struggling to secure financial independence. To its annual rent of CHF315,000 are added running costs of CHF500,000. Its revenue from the shop, bar and venue hire for artistic performances and other events is supplemented by the city of Zurich. But the subsidies hang in the balance: in September 2008, the right-wing UDC party launched a referendum to oppose the municipal funding CHF315,000. The watchmaker Swatch withdrew its sponsorship of CHF300,000.

For the director Adrian Notz “it would be good to transform the Cabaret Voltaire into a centre for artists to manage the place and give it a more international dimension”. The plan will only be possible if the owner, the insurance company Swiss Life, agrees to sell the building. “We can understand that the building is inspiring creative ideas during its centenary year,” says Swiss Life. “Nevertheless, we will not be drawn into speculations of this type.”