A draft of the following review was submitted to Reading Rämistrasse, an initiative of the Kunsthalle Zürich, at the beginning of October. Reading Rämistrasse was started in 2021 and has this mission statement: “If art criticism is losing ground, we must act. That’s why we created space for criticism – Reading Rämistrasse – on the Kunsthalle Zürich website and publish reviews of current exhibitions in Zürich. What is published here does not represent the opinion of the Kunsthalle Zürich. Because criticism has to be independent.” Kunsthalle Zürich denied putting this review through the project’s peer review editing system. In November, Provence reached out about publishing this review themselves. After subjecting me to rounds of editing, they pulled back from any planned publication.
Zeit. von Dürer bis Bonvicini at Kunsthaus Zürich
Zeit is a themed exhibition with no rush. All exhibition design and one-level relatedness, the art is erased and turned into demonstration. The viewer, the art, the institution and the taxpayers who don’t pay 23 francs entry (29 francs combined) all deserve better. Marketed as a grand theme exhibition, the most arbitrary moments end up the deepest topical inquiries: a Claes Oldenburg cardboard lightswitch? (Model - Stripped Wall Switch (1964)); Sylvie Fleury’s chromed bronze motor engine?? (400 Pontiac (1999)); Ernst Caramelle’s sun bleached paper compositions??? (2 Houses (1983)). There’s no diving allowed in this pool.
The curator, after “three years of research”, doesn’t really distinguish between the concept of time and the clock, an instrument to measure the former. This means that a majority of works depict clocks, have something to do with clocks in the title or have a random clock somewhere in the composition. We end up with very little time on our hands but lots of watches, as the show was organized with the Musée international d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds and because they are “a central element of Switzerland’s cultural self-image”. Quality used to be central to that image too.
Why the curator, Catherine Hug, subtitled the exhibition “from Dürer to Bonvicini”, is unclear. Monica Bonvicini isn’t the youngest artist in the exhibition, nor is she truly a household name yet. Perhaps it’s because of her exhibition anchoring work, You to Me (2022), where visitors (over the age of 18) may have themselves chained up for a minimum of half an hour in the exhibition space. Spread four times throughout the show, even without seeing it activated after three different visits, it’s a great artwork and exhibition moment, an unshallow and psychological play on the subjective nature of duration depending on context.
However, Bonvicini’s elevation into the show’s title also raises questions. Bonvicini, Maja Bajevic, Tobias Kaspar, Los Carpinteros, Jorge Macchi and Shirana Shahbazi all show with Zurich’s Galerie Peter Kilchmann. Nearly 20 percent of his program is represented in this exhibition, with only two other comparable local galleries represented with one artist each. One might be interested in asking about the relationship between a public sector employee like Catherine Hug and a private business like Peter Kilchmann. Or maybe it’s just bureaucratic level laziness, one stop shopping for over ten percent of the contemporary artists in the show during “three years of research”. Of the similar theme shows Hug has curated or co-curated since 2018 (on fashion, the moon, the environment and medicine), each shares between 7 and 13 percent of the same artists with this show on time. The broad and banal seem tethered in repetition.
The Kunsthaus, as a platform with all its attendant resources and visibility, continues to seem wasted. This doesn’t measure up to the public that this institution serves or the cultural realm it should defend and promote. Trust is squandered and eroded. Don’t waste your time or your money here, as this exhibition can’t even remind you that one of the two is impossible to get back.
by Mitchell Anderson