Around the galleries
Art en Vieille-Ville returns this spring to Geneva’s historic Old Town, with local galleries showcasing their best work in an array of exhibitions. Elsewhere in the Swiss city, a plethora of superb satellite shows can be found.
Monique Kent, Sunday, 1st April 2012
All eyes are on Geneva this month with a host of stellar events and exhibitions taking place across the city. On 26 April Geneva’s Old Town comes to life with local galleries staging an array of exhibitions for Art en Vieille-Ville (AVV). Taking place twice a year, in April and November, this biannual event sees around 15 galleries mounting special exhibitions over a two-month period, with shows including everything from antiquities to contemporary art (www.avv.ch).
As part of the fair, Jacques de la Béraudière stages ‘20th-Century Spanish Art’ (26 April–27 July), which considers the output of Spanish artists from the 1930s until after World War II. Focusing on the work of the Spanish surrealists, as well as the post-war movement known as Art Informel, the show features works by Oscar Dominguez, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. A particular highlight is a mixed-media work from 1958 by one of the leading exponents of Art Informel, Antoni Tápies. This influential and politicised Catalan artist, who died in February, pioneered pintura matèrica, a technique whereby non-artistic materials – such as sand, marble dust and clay – are incorporated into the paintings.
The Hispanic theme continues at Galerie Sonia Zannettacci with a display of the Argentine-born artist Antonio Seguí (b. 1934). The artist’s work explores a world of dark humour and gentle satire, and this show includes paintings, examples of carborundum printmaking and Seguí’s previously unseen steel sculptures (26 April–23 June).
At De Jonckheere we are transported north of Spain with ‘Dutch and Flemish Masters of the 16th and 17th century’ (26 April–30 June), a show that presents both acclaimed and lesser-known Flemish and Golden Age artists. Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Wedding Dance – a lively composition depicting peasants making merry, of which the artist made around 28 versions – is a highlight (Fig. 1), as is a sober Portrait of Martin Luther (1533) by Georg Pencz. In this portrait of the German preacher, Pencz, one of the more successful artists to come out of Dürer’s studio, imitates Lucas Cranach the Elder’s 1528 painting of the same sitter. It is one of many copies of portraits by German Renaissance artists which Pencz produced for his patrons.
‘Faiences: Precious Objects from Antiquity’ at Phoenix Ancient Art (26 April–30 June) reveals the fascinating history of early faiences, and includes jewellery, vases and amulets dating from ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire. Central to the show is a large Assyrian jar, unique due to its size, weight and condition. Made around the 7th to 8th century BC, the mythological story of the Mistress of the Animals is still almost entirely visible (Fig. 3).
It is not just commercial galleries, however, that are staging shows as part of AVV: both the Musée de l’Art et d’Histoire and the Maison Tavel are also mounting major exhibitions as part of the event. The history and art of lighting is presented by the former in ‘At Nightfall’ (until 19 August). The tamed flame, as it were, is often seen as the bridge between man and the divine, and here the museum complements its substantial holdings of lighting appliances and related works (such as this icon of the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple; Fig. 2) with loans from major public institutions. Other highlights include a Phoenician oil lamp and 40 medieval terracotta lamps, excavated from a church in Geneva in 1910. The Maison Tavel presents a collaboration between Genevan photographer Steeve Iuncker, and a terminally ill man named Xavier, which continued for two years until Xavier’s death (4 April–26 August).
While in Geneva for AVV, be sure not to miss Artvera’s captivating exhibition ‘Mediterranean Colours’ (1 rue Etienne Dumont; +41 (0)22 311 05 53). The show unveils landscapes celebrating springtime by 19th and early 20th-century masters and includes Bonnard’s Garden with Red Tree (1909), which reveals the artist’s progression towards a more Impressionistic style (until 18 September).
There is still time to catch Chinese painter Gao Zengli’s solo exhibition at Hania Bailly (10 rue d’Hotel de Ville; +41 (0)22 310 88 51), which continues until 19 May. And in the Quartier des Bains, the area of Geneva where the contemporary galleries are sited, the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (10 Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers; +44 (0)22 320 61 22) is mounting two strong solo shows, which continue until 6 May. Over 400 paintings from the 30-year career of the Swiss artist Thomas Huber are on display, alongside Cécile Bart’s installation of translucent, tinted screens. Dangling from the ceiling on wires, these floating planes of colour present a multitude of shifting perspectives as the viewer moves through the space.
Lastly, artgenève takes place at the Palexpo from 25 to 29 April. The third edition of this modern and contemporary fair sees some 50 Swiss and international dealers offering their wares, as well as an extensive programme of non-commercial exhibitions (www.artgeneve12.ch).
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