5 Zürich Gallery Shows You Need to See This Summer

Ben Eastham
Jun 14, 2016 4:33PM

The art-world caravan stops this month in Switzerland, which plays host to Europe’s most lucrative fair and its most progressive biennial. If you’re in Zürich this month, visiting Manifesta 11 or in need a break from the fevered deal-making of Art Basel, don’t miss the slew of heavyweight exhibitions programmed by the city’s most important galleries to take advantage of the influx.

“Schwitters Miró Arp” at Hauser & Wirth

Jun. 12–Sep. 18, Limmatstrasse 270

Installation view, “Schwitters Miró Arp,” Hauser & Wirth Zürich, 2016 © 2016, ProLitteris, Zurich. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

This year marks the centenary of Dada’s birth at Zürich’s Cabaret Voltaire, converted this summer into an “artist’s guild” for the duration of Manifesta 11. Hauser & Wirth celebrates the 100th birthday of the movement with a museum-quality exhibition of three of its most important practitioners. The show particularly illuminates, through a series of early collages, the close relationship between Hans Arp and Kurt Schwitters. A small selection of works by Joan Miró, meanwhile, demonstrates how artists used and adapted the legacy of Dada.

To Sophie, Sonia, Elsa, Hannah…” at Häusler Contemporary

May 12–Jul. 22, Stampfenbachstrasse 59

Installation view of “To Sophie, Sonia, Elsa, Hannah...” at Häusler Contemporary. Photo courtesy of the gallery.


Häusler Contemporary pays a different kind of homage to the greats of the early 20th century, dedicating a group exhibition to the modernist pioneers Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Sonia Delaunay, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Hannah Höch. The focus of this show of contemporary female artists is narrower than that lineup might suggest, with a particular emphasis on the bright geometric abstraction of painters Harriet Korman, Clare Goodwin, and Judy Ledgerwood—the highlight is a looping scribble of red neon adorning the first room, Exchange (2008) by Austrian artist Brigitte Kowanz.

John Baldessari—New Works” at Mai 36 Galerie

June 11–Aug. 6, Rämistrasse 37

Installation view of “John Baldessari—New Works” at Mai 36 Galerie. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

Closer to the spirit of Dada, perhaps, is an exhibition of new paintings by the great American conceptualist John Baldessari. Photographs or film stills—strangely cropped, printed onto canvas and roughly overpainted—are provided with single-word captions. The image bears no obvious relation to the text, and these mismatches are alternately witty, provocative, and bemusing. It takes some imagination to conceive how the word “GOETHE” might relate to a highly stylized image of a man holding a gun, or how “RADIO” might shed light on the hanging racks of an abattoir. This compulsion on behalf of viewers to think creatively—to make their own connections and systems from the available information—is no doubt the point.

Olivier Mosset at Galerie Andrea Caratsch

May 27–Jul. 22, Via Serlas 12 

Installation view of Olivier Mosset at Galerie Andrea Caratsch. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

A different variety of painterly conceptualism is on show at Galerie Andrea Caratsch, of a markedly different hue. While Baldessari’s paintings combine languorous humour with a Pop sensibility, Olivier Mosset’s monumental curved monochromes in red, green, blue, black, and yellow (all Untitled, 2015) suggest blankness and impersonality. Installed around the gallery’s walls, these works suggest a non-believer’s equivalent to Mark Rothko’s famous chapel beside The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. But where Rothko’s multi-layered canvases invite the viewer into spiritual contemplation, Mosset’s bounce back the gaze.  

Walead Beshty—Automat” at Galerie Eva Presenhuber

Jun. 12–Aug. 27, Löwenbräu Areal, Limmatstrasse 270

Installation view of Walead Beshty at Galerie Eva Presenhuber. Photo courtesy of Galerie Eva Presenhuber.

The visitor at Galerie Eva Presenhuber’s Walead Beshty show encounters a jagged modernist landscape of exploded office equipment—deconstructed printers and laptops skewed on shining metal poles—and large-scale abstract photographic images that (in the context of Zürich’s retrospective vibe this summer) formally recall the experiments of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray. A gleaming rack of copper L-shape sculptures—the latest edition of his “Copper Surrogate” series (the surface of which is smeared with grease marks from their transportation and installation by hand)—extrude from the wall. Although Beshty’s aesthetic will appeal immediately to anyone with a taste for hard edges and clean lines, his practice is based in the everyday. As such, it makes a fitting conclusion to any tour of a city whose greatest artistic legacy was the dismantlement of any distinction between art and life.

Ben Eastham