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'The New Kunsthaus: Great Art and Architecture', an exhibition on the expansion of the Kunsthaus Zürich
Henri Matisse, Intérieur à Collioure (La Sieste), 1905. Oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm. Collection Werner and Gabrielle Merzbacher © Succession Henri Matisse / 2012 ProLitteris, Zurich.

ZURICH.- From 5 October 2012 to 6 January 2013, the Kunsthaus Zürich is staging a new exhibition revealing what will be on offer to visitors from 2017 in the new extension designed by David Chipperfield Architects. Covering more than 1,300 m2, the presentation of 78 objects will include highlights and new acquisitions from the Kunsthaus collection as well as major works on loan, from Henri Matisse to Willem de Kooning.

On 25 November, voters in the City of Zurich will have their say on the investment contribution for the Kunsthaus extension. To accompany the vote, the Kunsthaus is mounting a large-scale exhibition giving visitors a chance to experience what is in store from 2017 onwards – in terms of great art and architecture.

The exhibition begins with a presentation of the extension itself, created in association with David Chipperfield Architects, in which visitors can examine a series of detailed model elements and construction plans close up and appreciate the design’s central place in the work of the renowned architect, even as the finishing touches are still being applied. For the first time, it includes samples of materials that have made it onto the short list. Large-format views, created from a number of models of the building, convey an impression of the new galleries and draw attention to architectural details. Particularly striking is the extensive use of gently gleaming brass – a material that David Chipperfield encountered in the existing Moser building and respectfully references in the new construction.

These architectural windows on the future are complemented by a free-standing small ‘box’ containing a selection (17 works, mainly on paper) of the Kunsthaus’s own treasures from a movement that, owing to space constraints in the existing building and conservation requirements, cannot always be exhibited: DADA. More of them will be on show in the existing building from 2017 onwards. The presence of this DADA box, with its radical content that rejects all ideas of permanence, contrasts powerfully with the evocation of the Kunsthaus extension, with its combination of clear, restrained and simple architecture and external order.

In the entrance area, visitors will be greeted by works including a major Franz Gertsch acquired in 2011 and a monumental stone circle by Richard Long: two pieces that represent entirely different approaches in modern art yet make for a remarkable combination when exhibited in the kind of spacious surroundings that the new extension is intended to provide. ‘Breathing’ presentations of this type are of central importance to contemporary art. Collection curator Philippe Büttner will be presenting these and other functions and potentials of the new extension by means of 61 paintings, sculptures and photographs.

These include significant private collections that, if all goes according to plan, will move into the expanded Kunsthaus on long-term loan from the end of 2017. One of them, the Bührle Collection, an important private collection of works consisting primarily of Impressionist and early modern art, was shown in a temporary exhibition during 2010.

This time the focus is on the collection of the Fondation Looser, which has never before been exhibited in Switzerland. Key works from this collection are to be exhibited in the Kunsthaus on long-term loan. At its core is American and European art from the 1960s to 1990s: Abstract Expressionism, Minimal Art, Arte Povera. The works chosen for this sample presentation are by one of the leading Abstract Expressionists: the American Willem de Kooning, whose representation here is unique in Europe. His paintings and sculptures will be combined with superlative works from the Kunsthaus’s Pop Art collection: Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg. This fascinating encounter between two key facets of modern American art will provide a foretaste of how the Kunsthaus will be presenting them in future.

The extension will house substantial holdings of Classical Modernism as well as recent and contemporary art. It will also bring together a remarkable selection of French art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, represented here by a group of major Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.

In addition to the classic galleries exhibiting works by era, there will be space for ‘dynamic,’ alternating presentations of collection holdings featuring pieces from different periods and genres. This is exemplified by a group of works concentrated around Anselm Kiefer’s ‘Parsifal.’ The large-format painting, with an allusion to the Grail legend at its centre, is accompanied by an ensemble of selected works from the collection dating from the 17th to 20th centuries in which mythological and even heroic figures also take centre stage. They include a new acquisition by the French Baroque painter Philippe de Champaigne, a work by Cy Twombly and an exceptional picture by the great realist Gustave Courbet. Together these works tell a unique story that emerges from the art itself, and in which the nearby, space-enveloping installation by the Mexican Gabriel Orozco is also implicated.

The counterpoint to this thematic presentation of works by artists from 1650 to the present day is an early masterpiece by a supreme visual innovator that has recently undergone extensive restoration: Pipilotti Rist’s 1994 work ‘Yoghurt on Skin,’ which has not been exhibited in Zurich for many years, is an ambassador for more recent installation art which will finally be given the prominence it deserves in the Kunsthaus extension.

There is also abundant reference to a further central function of the extension: the fulfilment of a long-cherished desire for a medium-sized temporary exhibition area. The Kunsthaus’s extensive holdings of works by Henri Matisse are joined by some important Swiss loans to create a focused and large-scale presentation of the artist. Thirty years after the legendary Matisse exhibition of 1982 in the same exhibition space, it examines the central artistic concerns and motifs of this master of Modernism, who proclaimed ‘joie de vivre’ in its most cultivated form.

For both artists and audiences, inspiration needs an outlet. This is supplied by a lounge, which will be used for fringe events but also provide a space for interactive offerings and encounters. The new forum will be shaped by the presence of art fresh from the studios of Urs Fischer, David Renggli, Gillian Wearing and others. The New Kunsthaus will be a vibrant space for recent and newly produced art, in which for the first time it can be exhibited in rooms entirely suited to it. The lounge also offers a view of the site on the other side of Heimplatz on which the new building is to be constructed.

‘The New Kunsthaus’ is more than just the extension: it includes the entire architectural ensemble. The two buildings constitute a single museum, bound
together and underpinned by the shared idea of a museum for art and audiences in the 21st century. Not only does the extension create a wealth of new possibilities in its own right: by providing a new home for major holdings, it will open up the galleries in the buildings designed by architects Moser and Müller for a host of new uses.

A preview of this is offered by the temporary new presentation of key mature works by Alberto Giacometti which is running in parallel to the exhibition. This selection has moved from the Moser building to the Müller building, into bright and spacious galleries that will be available to the Giacometti Foundation’s unique collection from 2017 onwards. Until the beginning of January, visitors can see close-up and ‘one-to-one’ just how much of a difference the extension will make to the existing building.

Curators and exhibition organizers will fill the New Kunsthaus with art in a way that enables visitors to experience its myriad facets – from the sublime to the radical, the timelessly beautiful to the newly created, divided up by history or presented to us unfiltered – in the best possible way.

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