EUROPA Kunsthaus Zürich
EUROPA Exhibition, The Future of History, Kunsthaus Zürich

Our Theme

What image represents Europe? Is it the fall of the Berlin Wall, universal human rights, the European Football Championships and the Eurovision Song Contest? Not since Antiquity has a single image stood for Europe. Today, Europe is a multifaceted mosaic that, despite tectonic tensions beneath the surface, is no longer at risk of breaking apart. This is the thesis underlying the exhibition, which presents over 100 paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and installations by some 60 modern or contemporary artists. They encounter literary and political statements by well-known figures in an exploration of Europe as peace project.

Renationalization versus Internationalism

Curator and art historian Cathérine Hug and the Viennese writer Robert Menasse, who is acting as advisor to the exhibition, base their presentation on a political insight. At the beginning of the third millennium, the continent of Europe finds itself in a paradoxical situation. More states than ever have democratic constitutions, yet the symptoms of crisis are ever more apparent in countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Germany that were once in the socio-political avant-garde. Citizens perceive a democratic deficit and are expressing a desire for renationalization through the choices they make at the ballot box. This is the second paradox: for in a Europe that is interlinked technologically, economically and ecologically, national action alone no longer suffices to resolve problems. Europeans are bound together by more than just territory: they share a complex past and, following the horrors of the Second World War, a resolve to shape a future founded on solidarity and peace.

Art in search of a peaceful Europe

The exhibition tells of utopias and dreams – and of reality. By tracing the history of ideas, it sets out to convey how the seemingly abstract vision of a peaceful Europe is made manifest. Back in 1826 Heinrich Heine anticipated what every modern-day special interest group has realized: ‘Day by day the ridiculous prejudices of races are disappearing; all harsh peculiarities are disappearing in the universality of European civilization, there are no longer nations but parties.’ What party, then, is art? Why does a museum line up behind a political project; and does that project then become cultural?

Liberty, Identity, Universal Sentiments

The exhibition spans an arc from the 19th to the 21st centuries, focusing on the period from the rise of nation states to the post-national interdependence of the present day. Switzerland has contributed much to alliance and understanding between states. The country was exemplary in its approach to multicultural challenges that Europe still faces today, achieving a consensus among every section of the population. A dozen works from the Kunsthaus Zürich and other renowned collections such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris and the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin bear witness to artists whose various impacts have been brought together here. But this is not about showcasing national identities or using art to illustrate a history book. The rigour and methodology of historiography are set aside. Rather, our concern is with art and Europe: two avant-garde forces that are more topical today than they have ever been. Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, the continent’s political, economic and cultural cooperation without imperialistic aspirations has set an example that others have imitated.

From London via Brussels to Kiev: More than 100 works

Many artists are driven by an intergenerational, active questioning of nationalism and a continual quest for peace. In works from London to Kiev, they present their individual reflections on Europe, freedom and art. Many of the paintings, drawings, photographs, films and installations on display in the large exhibition gallery of the Kunsthaus are the product of years of intense research. While the presentation revolves around cultural constants, the exigencies and symptoms of Europe’s current predicament are not ignored. Themes such as the paths of democratic development, war and peace, home – wanderlust – homesickness and the culture of memory, amnesia and nostalgia are interlaced with Europe’s eventful history and present.

Political Art makes a comeback. A paradigm shift

Political art is now back in fashion. It resists the commercial and hedonistic appropriation that is practised by more and more institutions because it optimizes attention economics. It says much about the times in which we live when the European Media Award is bestowed on Erdem Gündüz, an activist and dancer who came to fame as the ‘Standing Man’, his silent protest drawing global public attention to the democratic deficits in Turkey. Is culture now putting right issues that politics and economics have failed to address? By illuminating different states of mind and modes of access, the Kunsthaus Zürich is contributing to a discourse that, through art, revives reflection on a historically evolved ‘Europe as peace project’. Dani Gal’s video film ‘As from afar’ was acquired by the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft specially for the exhibition. Marc Bauer, Karen Geyer, Thomas Imbach, Herlinde Koelbl and Valeska Peschke have expanded or adapted their works specifically for their presentation at the Kunsthaus. Marc Bauer’s fragile work, known for the use of historical symbols and quotations, seems threatened by decay – just like many an idea or tangible asset. What Ukrainian artist Nikita Kadan, winner of the Future Generation Art Prize at the Venice Biennale in 2013, has to tell us is every bit as topical as the contributions by the Greek Stefanos Tsivopoulos and the artist duo Maria Iorio/Raphaël Cuomo, whose work addresses the plight of refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In addition to those mentioned, the exhibition features the work of dozens of other artists.

Supported by Swiss Re – Partner for contemporary art and by the Dr. Georg and Josi Guggenheim Foundation, the Erna and Curt Burgauer Foundation, Ars Rhenia, the foundation for the transregional promotion of art and culture, the Institut français and by UNIQA Fine Art Insurance Switzerland. The wall colours are sponsored by Farrow & Ball.


An app with an audioguide examines the socio-political environment that prevailed when the works were created. In addition to historical visual and sound documents, it features extracts from interviews with figures from the worlds of politics, culture and economics but also present-day witnesses – sources that shape our image of Europe. The catalogue contains new articles by Melinda Nadj Abonji (writer), Dagmar Reichert (geographer), Aleida Assmann (cultural scientist), Zygmunt Bauman (sociologist), Horst Bredekamp (art historian), Burcu Dogramaci (art historian), Cathérine Hug (art historian), Robert Menasse (writer), Ulrike Guérot (political scientist), Alexandre Kostka (cultural scientist), Julia Kristeva (psychoanalyst), Konrad Paul Liessmann (philosopher), Thomas Maissen (historian) and Jan Zielonka (political scientist). Their essays and academic texts are accompanied by some 60 analytical descriptions that examine the works of modern and contemporary artists from a European perspective. Published in English and German by NZZ Libro, this 320-page volume is available from the Kunsthaus shop and booksellers.

App available from exhibition start onwards

Artists & Works

The exhibition includes some 100 works by over 60 artists. Some of them are shown here. But to really appreciate them, you should see the originals.


  • Josef Albers
  • Kader Attia
  • Sven Augustijnen


  • Marc Bauer
  • Joseph Beuys
  • Arnold Böcklin
  • Alighiero Boetti
  • Osman Bozkurt
  • Herbert Brandl
  • Christoph Büchel and Giovanni Carmine


  • Raphaël Cuomo/Maria Iorio


  • Honoré Daumier
  • Otto Dix
  • Andreas Duscha


  • Max Ernst


  • Ian Hamilton Finlay
  • Peter Fischli/David Weiss


  • Dani Gal
  • Agnes Geoffray
  • Karen Geyer
  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Andreas Gursky
  • Ane Hjort Guttu
  • Fabrice Gygi


  • Klara Hobza
  • Ferdinand Hodler


  • Thomas Imbach


  • Anna Jermolaewa


  • Ilya Kabakov
  • Nikita Kadan
  • Bouchra Khalili
  • Paul Klee
  • Martin Kippenberger
  • Daniel Knorr
  • Simona Koch
  • Herlinde Koelbl
  • Rudolf Koller


  • Jacques Lipchitz
  • Richard Paul Lohse


  • Claude Monet
  • Max von Moos
  • Christian Philipp Müller
  • Claudia & Julia Müller
  • Edvard Munch


  • Marcel Odenbach
  • Uriel Orlow
  • Meret Oppenheim


  • Adrian Paci
  • Miranda Pennell
  • Valeska Peschke
  • Cora Piantoni


  • Steve Reich
  • Hans Richter
  • Kurt Ryslavy


  • David Salle
  • Vittorio Santoro
  • Ceija Stojka
  • Karl Stojka


  • Remco Torenbosch
  • Stefanos Tsivopoulos


  • Félix Vallotton


  • Albert Welti
  • Nives Widauer


  • Artur Żmijewski


‘Double Happiness’ (2014, CN and AT) by Ella Raidel

Film screening followed by a discussion between Ella Raidel (director, Taipei) and Cathérine Hug (curator Kunsthaus Zürich).
Taking as her starting point the much-publicized fact that ‘the Chinese’ have more or less rebuilt to scale the Upper-Austrian tourist attraction of Hallstatt close to the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen, Raidel takes an acutely perceptive look at contemporary China.

Thurs 16 July 2015, 6 p.m.–8 p.m., small lecture hall of the Kunsthaus Zürich

Short lecture by Dr. Gilles Grin, Director of the Fondation Jean Monnet pour l’Europe, Lausanne

followed by a discussion with Cathérine Hug.
Jean Monnet is a key figure in the European peace project, which was initiated to a large degree by the Schuman Declaration (1950) and the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community (1951). This lecture and talk shed light on his important legacy. This event takes place in English.

Wed 19 August 2015, 6.30 p.m.–8 p.m., auditorium, Kunsthaus Zürich
Admission CHF 10.- or included in the exhibition ticket (CHF 22.-/17.- reduced). Free of charge for members of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft. In cooperation with the Europe Institute Zürich.

Europainstitut Zürich

What can art and politics nowadays communicate to each other?

A chaired aperitif with the guests Melinda Nadj Abonij (writer and candidate for the Swiss National Council), Tom Isler (filmmaker), Flavia Kleiner (co-president Operation Libero), Lea Loeb (Friction).
Introduction: Cathérine Hug, curator Kunsthaus Zürich. Moderator: Maximilian Stern, Visiting Fellow Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome.

Thur 27 August 2015, 8 p.m.–9.30 p.m., Karl der Grosse, Kirchgasse 14, Zurich Free of charge. In cooperation with foraus – forum de politique étrangère, Friction and Karl der Grosse

Film screening: ‘Land der Vernichtung‘ (‘Land of Annihilation‘, 2003, 140 mins., German/Polish) by Romuald Karmakar

«Land der Vernichtung’ deals with the question of how the magnitude of Nazi crimes can be transferred to the medium of film, how the suffering of non-Jewish Poles during the occupation has inscribed itself in the memory of the people today, and which traces the destruction has left in the centuries-old Jewish culture. Welcome by Cathérine Hug and Karen Roth, Omanut. The film director will only be present during the second part of the event on Thur 3 September 2015).

Sun 30 August 2015, 2 p.m.–4.20 p.m., auditorium, Kunsthaus Zürich
Admission CHF 10.- or included in the exhibition ticket (CHF 22.-/17.- reduced).
Free of charge for members of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft and Omanut. In cooperation with Omanut - Society for the promotion of Jewish art in Switzerland and the Europe Institute Zürich.


Europainstitut Zürich

Civil society in the age of social media

Discussion and tour of the exhibition ‘Europe. The Future of History’with Daphne Büllesbach (European Alternatives) and Cathérine Hug, curator of the exhibition.

Wed 2 September 2015, 6.30 p.m.–7.30 p.m. Included in the admission ticket to the Europe exhibition (CHF 22.-/17.- reduced) and free of charge for members of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft and up to 16 years.

70 years later – The 2nd World War and its consequences for Europe

The Zurich author Lukas Bärfuss, the Viennese poet Robert Menasse and the Berlin filmmaker Romuald Karmakar discuss the continuing influence of history. Consulting their own respective work, they analyse the effects of an ignorance towards history - or at least a tabooing thereof - and how the innocence and will to live of the people who live in historic places of extermination manifests itself. What possibilities exist to keep the large scope of a compassionate attitude open, so that not every word of concern or of those concerned is an involuntary trivialization? Welcome: Karen Roth, director of Omanut. Moderation: Cathérine Hug, curator Kunsthaus Zürich

Thur 3 September 2015, 6.30 p.m.–8 p.m., auditorium, Kunsthaus Zürich.
Admission CHF 10.- or included in the exhibition ticket (CHF 22.-/17.- reduced). Free of charge for members of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft and the Omanut society. In cooperation with Omanut - Society for the promotion of Jewish art in Switzerland and the Europe Institute Zürich.


Europainstitut Zürich

Special Act by «Roma Jam Session Art Kollektiv»

on the occasion of the last exhibition day of «Europe. The Future of History». Artistic performative event against the discrimination and marginalization of the Romanies, Sinti and Yenish in Europe and Switzerland. The Roma Jam Session Art Kollektiv (RJSaK) is the first art collective in Switzerland that is committed through performative, political and mediating endeavours to make these minorities more visible in our society.

Sun 6 September 2015, 5.00 p.m.–5.30 p.m. Free admission.

Artist's Talks

Europe has experienced longer periods of closed borders than open ones, and has been shaped by the chaos of war – facts that London-based artist Uriel Orlow and sound artist Karen Geyer have chosen to explore. Their artistic approach is to journey back in time, encountering many a neglected corner of history along the way. Through visits to these ‘places of memory’, such as the Café Odeon in Zurich and the moving stories of Jewish emigrants in New York, they reflect on various cultures of memory and discuss how we deal with our own histories.
For information and to register contact or call 044 253 84 84.

Places of memory

With Uriel Orlow, an artist living and working in London
Wed 17 June, 6.15 p.m. – 7.45 p.m., CHF 25 / members CHF 10

Memory piece

With Karen Geyer, an artist living and working in Zurich and New York
Sat 22 August, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., CHF 80 / members CHF 65 / young people CHF 30

Public Guided Tours

Wednesdays 6 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. (in German).With electronic FM group guiding system. Particularly suited to visitors with impaired hearing. CHF 6 / 4 (members of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft). Please purchase at the cash desk. Places limited. Devices will be issued in the lobby 10 minutes before the tour begins.

Practical Information

Kunsthaus Zürich, Heimplatz 1, CH–8001 Zurich
Tel. +41 (0)44 253 84 84,,

Fri-Sun/Tues 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Wed, Thurs 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Public holidays: 1 August 10.00 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Admission to the exhibition including audioguide in English, French or German: CHF 22/CHF 17 (concessions and groups).
Combined ticket including the collection: CHF 27/CHF 20 (concessions and groups). Children and young people up to the age of 16 free of charge.

Advance sales: SBB RailAway combination ticket, with discount on travel and admission: at stations and by phoning Rail Service 0900 300 300 (CHF 1.19/min. by land line),

Zurich Tourism: hotel room reservations and ticket sales, Tourist Service at Zurich Main Railway Station, tel. +41 44 215 40 00,

Magasins Fnac: sales points in Switzerland: Rive, Balexert, Lausanne, Fribourg, Pathé Kino Basel,; France: Carrefour, Géant, Magasins U, 0 892 68 36 22 (EUR 0.34/min),; Belgium:


Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft
P.O. Box, CH–8024 Zurich

Texts: Cathérine Hug / Editor: Kristin Steiner, Kunsthaus Zürich
Design: gestalten AG
Technical production: Taktil

Citation should include mention of source.
© Kunsthaus Zürich 2015


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