The success of Swiss artists in the last few decades comes as no surprise. Recognized as a country with the highest number of museums per capita, Switzerland has proven to be a great system of support for its artists, which begins the moment their art education starts. Various art institutions, collectors, and major curators pay attention to what is happening in the major art schools such as the ones in Basel, Zurich, Lucerne, Geneva and Lausanne. The rise of Zurich as an international art center, which started back in 1980’s with the Halle fur Neue Kunst in Schaffhausen and the founding of Parkett magazine, promotes not only the innovations of the Swiss artists but encourages the exchange dialogue with the rest of the world.
The participation of the Swiss artists during some of the most celebrated art events showcases the innovative force behind their works, which reference and redefine the trends of today’s art production. A few years ago, Artprice named Urs Fischer as the world’s most expensive living artist under 40, which was understood as the new departure of Swiss artists and Switzerland’s art scene.
The following list displays the top Swiss artists whose creativity and the pushing of the boundaries for sure did not go unnoticed.
All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image in slider: U. Fischer – Installation art artwork. Image via publicinstallationart.altrevista.com; Pipilotti Rist -Installation at MoMa. Image via pinterest.com; Pamela Rosenkranz – Artwork. Image via wallpaper.com
Roman Signer - The Fusion of Art and Science
Roman Signer is considered as one of Switzerland’s most renowned artists. Many think of him more of a scientist or engineer than an artist, as he is celebrated for his ambitious experiments. Signer documents these events through video and photography and as he is the only one present while the experiments take place, mystery follows closely behind. Surely not an exhibitionist, Signer’s actions and procedures achieve humorous, unexpected, and aesthetically compelling results. The artist’s experiments often consist of setting off explosions, hurling objects into the air, or engineering collisions.
Featured image: Roman Signer – Tisch, Outdoor sculpture. Image via wallpaper.com
John M Armleder - The Role of Chance
As one of the important figures during the 1960’s and 70’s Fluxus movement, John M Armleder was celebrated for his implementation of John Cage’s ideas concerning the role of chance for creation. As a founder of the Geneva-based group Groupe Ecart, Armleder was involved in performance art. Blurring the lines between avant-garde art production and the every day, in 1980s the artist experimented with furniture sculpture, which conflicted art and the design object. Working across an array of disciplines and mixing a variety of styles, from Suprematist painting, Minimalist sculpture, or Dada’s readymades, John M Armleder is considered as one of the most influential Swiss artists.
Featured image: John M Armleder – Artwork. Image via youtube.com
Thomas Hirschhorn - Art is Always Political
Famous for his installation pieces which confront the idea of elitism in art and the burning questions of the world at large, Thomas Hirschhorn makes art that relates to political discontent and offers alternative models of thinking. Originally trained as a graphic designer, the interest in social and cultural theories became part of his work since the 1980s. Using collage as a form of creation, Hirschhorn creates sprawling installations from found objects which engage the public senses. Questioning both the aesthetic value of the work, consumerism and media spectacle, the artist offers a new form of philosophical thinking. The admiration for famous philosophers, such as Baruch Spinoza, Gilles Deleuze, Georges Bataille and Antonio Gramsci, is referenced in his celebrated public work created in 2013 at Gramsci Monument.
Featured image: Thomas Hirschhorn – Installation view at Museum Dhondt Dhaenens. Image via pinterest.com
Pipilotti Rist - Kaleidoscope Which Captures All the Senses
As one of the most celebrated Swiss artists, Pipilotti Rist’s production wrestles with issues concerning femininity, gender, sexuality, the human body, and mind. Her films, music, performances, installations and sculptures have captured audiences worldwide and created a dream-like experience which dazzles the senses. Referencing nature in some of her more peaceful images of flowers, water, and sky, the nude human figure is exposed as its essential part.
Featured image: Pipilotti Rist – Artwork. Image via vogue.com
Ugo Rondinone - The Fantasy World
Spanning from installation pieces to psychedelic paintings and large-scale drawings, Ugo Rondinone’s art exists between the extremes. Referencing Pop Art, and implementing found objects and materials, his rainbow-hued and neon lit sign pieces are defined as contemporary Arte Povera objects. Similarly, the artist’s sculptures and the environment in which they are placed transform constantly. His series of nine stone giants titled Human Nature, which stood the entire length of the New York’s Rockefeller Plaza in 2013, gained the artist much praise and worldwide attention.
Featured image: Ugo Rondinone – Seven Magic Mountains, on site installation. Image via sevenmagicmountains.com
Christoph Buchel - Challenging the Norm
Christoph Büchel is known for his large-scale hyperrealistic installations. Focused on creating pieces which are intensely political and provocative, the artist pushes and challenges the artistic and social assumptions. His provocative pieces, including oil tankers, bombs, claustrophobic chambers or tunnels, demand an active participation of the viewer.
Featured image: Christoph Büchel – Last Man Out Turn Off the Light. Image via kiamku.com
Urs Fischer - The Search for the New
Frequently associated with Neo-Dada, Urs Fischer has received an international reputation for his playful sculptures and installations. Using a range of materials, including wood, clay, glass, wax, found objects or food, Fischer creates a new identity for the materials. Often quoting the art historical traditions, such as still lifes, portraits, and landscape paintings, the author destroys the importance of such old canons, particularly through his use of unconventional materials. Not afraid to cause a stir, his 2007 piece You, an eight-foot-deep hole in the ground of Gavin Brown’s Manhattan gallery, expressed feelings concerning the absurdity of the world.
Featured image: Urs Fischer – Paintings. Image via ursfishcer.com
Marc Bauer - In Love With Drawing
Drawing is the main medium for Marc Bauer’s works, which present historical figures, personal memories, and imaginary characters in a narrative style. The artist simply adores the high contrast of black and white that adds the somber atmosphere to his pieces. Deliberately rubbing away the graphite or the lithographic chalk, the smeared effect mirrors the blurry nature of memories investigated by the author. Implementing text, historical photographs, or cinema stills, Bauer creates a dialogue between the viewer and further provokes the subconscious of the viewer.
Featured image: Marc Bauer – History of Masculinity Series. Image via alchetron.com
Valentin Carron - What is Culture Today?
Valentin Carron is one of the important youngest-generation Swiss artists. In 2013, he represented his country at the prestigious Venice Biennale. Working primarily in sculpture, the artist appropriates items from rural Switzerland, like iron shop signs, crucifixes, mopeds, musical instruments, or wooden bears. In his recent pieces, Carron questions the idea of power, politics, and classification, attempting to re-examine presentation of culture.
Featured image: Valentin Carron – Part of the Installation work at Praz Delavallade. Image via contemporaryartdaily.com
Pamela Rosenkranz - The Power of the Body
Inspired by today’s culture, the multidisciplinary approach of Pamela Rosenkranz explores themes such as modern technology, globalization, and environmentalism. Avoiding figuration, her installations, sculptures, videos, and works on paper investigate the human body and its surroundings, and often reference and appropriate objects from current global visual cultures, such as bottles from soft drinks manufacturers. Since 2009, the Swiss artist has been creating a series of body paintings which evoke Yves Klein’s works. Following a string of participation in several international biennales, in 2015 the artist was chosen to represent Switzerland at the Venice Biennale.