I’m pleased to introduce a few exhibitions worth seeing in Zürich currently, to highlight the diversity and scope of art in just a few galleries; from emerging to established, modern to contemporary; design, sculpture, photography, painting, video, installation, and sometimes all these interwoven into a single artist’s practice!

Mai 36
Koenraad Dedobbeleer (until 4 March)

Mai 36 is one of Zürich’s most established galleries, founded in 1987 by Victor Gisler. The gallery represents many great Contemporary artists such as John Baldessari, Franz Akermann and Thomas Ruff, as well as significant Artist Estates such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Luigi Ghirri and Peter Hujar, which reveals the gallery’s leanings towards the photographic medium. 

The gallery recently opened “Koenraad Dedobbeleer: Images Entertain Thought” that incorporates sculptures, installations and photographs full of associations, witty commentaries with art historical references. Dedobbeleer focuses on everyday objects, which he modifies and re-contextualises. These transformations prompt the viewer to question the essential quality of things and their existence within newly created frames of reference, allowing for a variety of interpretations. The exhibition comprises 40 analogue photographs, which are often the result of a reproduction of a reproduction. When observing the prints closely, occasionally one sees lines across an image where the quality has been compromised or other imperfections. Here, the artist may have photographed an image from a magazine or from his iPhone. Dedobbeleer enjoys this element of guile, also the layering, the subtle shifts in seemingly identical images and the dialogue between different objects. Most of all, as in the title “Images Entertain Thought”, he hopes these images will be the starting point for the viewer to make unexpected associations and discoveries. 

Koenraad Dedobbeleer, installation view of “Considered Unrepresentative”, 2016
Courtesy of Mai 36, © Koenraad Debdobbeleer

Koenraad Dedobbeleer, “Serve” 2016 triptych
Courtesy of Mai 36, © Koenraad Debdobbeleer

Galerie Edwynn Houk
Lillian Basssman (extended until 18 February)

The Edwynn Houk gallery was founded in 1980. Since then, the gallery has specialised in vintage photographs by leading figures from the Modernist movement. The gallery has represented the Estate of Brassaï, Bill Brandt, Dorothea Lange, André Kertész, Ilse Bing and the Robert Frank Archive. Houk also runs a strong Contemporary programme representing artists such as Lalla Essaydi, Abelardo Morell and Sally Mann. Their main space is in New York, and in 2010, they opened this second gallery in Zürich. 

Edwynn Houk’s current exhibition presents Lillian Bassman’s elegant and dream-like fashion photographs. Bassman’s images appeared on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar from the late 1940s to 1960s. She trained and worked under famed art director Alexey Brodovitch. Having abandoned photography for two decades, in the 1990s Bassman returned to her old negatives and re-interpreted them. She changed the original framing, accentuated contrast and softness and retouched areas. They became far more abstract and daring, leading to a renewed interest in her photography among editors, curators and collectors. She told the New York Times in a 1997 interview that she wanted to “take the hardness out of photography” in order to make it less literal, which she accomplished using darkroom techniques such as bleaching, dodging and burning with selective focus. She can be credited for introducing a new aesthetic in fashion photography. 

Lillian Bassman exhibition installation view
© Lillian Bassman Estate / Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery

Lillian Bassman, “Black with one white glove, Barbara Mullen, dress by Christian Dior, New York, Harper's Bazaar”, 1950
© Lillian Bassman Estate / Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery

Anyway Part Of It (until 4 March)

Bolte Lang was founded in 2008 by Anna Bolte and Chaja Lang. The gallery shows a variety of emerging artists working with all media from sculpture and installation to painting, drawing, collage, photography and film, often with a focus on material and studio practice. 

The gallery’s newly opened exhibition “Anyway Part Of It” was curated by Jeanette Apitz, a collector of design objects, who invited internationally recognised designers Kueng Caputo and Clémence Seilles, as well as fine artist Patrick Hari to collaborate on this project. 

When entering the gallery - dimly lit by Kueng Caputo sculptural light bulb pieces (“A piece of Wall”, 2014) - one encounters an array of colourful objects, textures and sound. In the front room, a selection of the designers’ latest works are arranged to create a platform for the music performance. Speakers, acoustic panels, lighting, room dividers, stage props and a lonely microphone are carefully arranged, creating a stage without performers. The music playing is by singers that were censored in different countries, making a statement for the freedom of musical expression. Venturing further into the gallery is a pure delight for the senses. Typeface letters are scattered on the floor and travertine bowls are placed above, elegant rock stools along the wall with the introduction of movement via a circular hanging mobile that gently turns. The third room hosts a large sculptural work by artist Patrick Hari entitled “Muppet Villa – Dreaming Alone is a Boring Land”. A large wooden structure, it hints at function but simultaneously denies any use. His use of different materials and the sculpture’s suggestion of a domestic microcosmos creates a playful dialogue with the design pieces. A common thread running through all their practices is the focus on material with a high level of craftsmanship.  

Anyway Part Of It exhibition installation view
Courtesy of BolteLang, © Kueng Caputo & Clémence Seilles

Patrick Hari, “Muppet Villa - Dreaming Alone Is A Boring Land”, 2017
Courtesy of BolteLang, © Patrick Hari

RODNEY GRAHAM (until 11 March) 
HENRY MOORE (until 11 March) 

Hauser & Wirth need little introduction, an international gallery devoted to Contemporary and Modern art, founded in Zürich by Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Ursula Huser in 1992. It is a global enterprise with spaces in Zürich, London, New York, Los Angeles and Somerset, UK. The gallery represents over sixty established and emerging artists, and several reputable Artist Estates such as the Louise Bourgois Studio, the Estate of Philip Guston and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. 

Hauser & Wirth in Zürich currently presents two very different exhibitions, Vancouver-based contemporary artist Rodney Graham on the ground floor and early works on paper by the late British artist Henry Moore on the second floor. On entering the formidable ground floor space, within the Löwenbrau complex, we encounter Rodney Graham’s large-scale photographic lightboxes comprising highly detailed, allegorical and witty compositions. Each image is a fictional self-portrait with the artist in costume portraying a variety of characters. From the elaborate props to the intricate costumes and stage sets, each scene is executed with great precision and technical skill. In “Antiquarian Sleeping in His Shop” (2017), where Graham plays a collector sleeping amongst his many precious objects, it feels as though one could reach into the frame and pick an item from a shelf, peer a little closer even and read the titles on the book spines. Since the 1980s, Graham has developed his diverse practice to encompass photography, painting, sculpture, film, video and music. 

Then walking up to the gallery’s second floor space one discovers what feels like a small-scale museum exhibition, “Henry Moore: Myths and Poetry”, curated by his daughter Mary Moore. The exhibition focuses on the artist’s early works on paper (1940s – early 1950s) and includes poetry magazine covers, illustrations for poems by Herbert Read and sketches, exploring the graphic side of Moore’s practice. In addition to etchings, lithographs and drawings, several sculptures are also on view including a large-scale work carved from Elmwood that has not been exhibited since the 1950s. One of the highlights of this exhibition is the supporting archival material on show including Moore’s tools, personal possessions such as books and chairs, photographs of the artist in his studio and correspondence with friends such as W.H. Auden and Herbert Read. This offers an intimate view of a great artist with a unique glimpse into his private space and early working practices. 

Installation view of Rodney Graham, “Media Studies 77”, 2016
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, © Rodney Graham

Henry Moore, “Cover Design for Contemporary Poetry and Prose”, 1937
Reproduced with permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

- by Diana Poole

* Cover pic: Rodney Graham, “Antiquarian Sleeping in his Shop”, 2017
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, © Rodney Graham