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Kunsthaus Zürich

Department of Prints and Drawings

Pointing the way

A graphic arts collection in the Kunsthaus Zurich? Hand on heart – how many museum visitors have taken the opportunity to spend an afternoon taking a look at a graphic sheet by Dieter Roth, a drawing by John Cage, a watercolour by Johann Heinrich Fuseli or the “Cabaret Voltaire” – a small red exercise book, that extends far beyond Dada Zürich: it transcends war and nationhood to recall the few independently minded artists who lived according to other ideals (Hugo Ball). The study room, only two minutes away from the main entrance, also offers the opportunity to access many collections via the Internet, databases and library; to compare the different images encountered and to enjoy the friendly uncomplicated atmosphere created by the curators Mirjam Varadinis and Bernhard von Waldkirch together with the technical and administrative assistant Armin Simon. Today we find ourselves looking back over a long journey that began almost exactly 215 years ago when a group of art lovers and friends joined together and initiated a project that resulted in the creation of the first “Malerbuch”. Who could have imagined then that a few hasty sketches without any conceptual foundation would evolve into a twenty volume book museum and the impressive collection of today's Kunsthaus. But this is exactly where the charm of the graphic arts collection lies. The developmental lines lose themselves in the flowing hair of the smiling Fortuna and as the viewer pauses to reflect they return with every stroke to their origins. The newly appointed curator has once again taken up the line of contemporary art, a tradition of this museum and one it is outstandingly equipped to follow. “The drawing is everything!” As a sculptor, painter, draughtsman and graphic artist Alberto Giacometti knew what he was talking about. Great art always holds the possibility of its own failure in view, makes it visible in its expression; what remains is the indelible impression of an impulse that softens the surface and shapes the world (of tomorrow?) anew.

From left to right: Bernhard von Waldkirch, Monique Meyer, Mirjam Varadinis, Armin Simon.
Photo © Markus Bühler-Rasom
From left to right: Bernhard von Waldkirch, Monique Meyer, Mirjam Varadinis, Armin Simon.
Photo © Markus Bühler-Rasom