How did artists respond to the historical rift created by Fascism and the Second World War? And how, once the conflict was over, did they find new ways to give shape to existence – and indeed the existence of art itself?

About the exhibition


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This exhibition looks for answers in the Kunsthaus Collection, with a thematic presentation of around 70 works including many paintings and sculptures that have not been shown for decades.

The art of this period is characterized by drastic change and massive contrasts. After the war – which culminated in ‘Hour Zero’ as the fighting finally came to an end – the post-1945 decade sees a shift, from a reckoning with the conflict’s far-reaching consequences to the creation of a new artistic language accompanied by a new freedom of expression.

Overall, the presentation put together by collection curator Philippe Büttner reveals just how much energy was tied up by the war and then released by its conclusion. It shows how figuration and abstraction endured side by side as underlying idioms of modern art and contributed to the fundamental renewal of artistic creativity.

Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Douze Espaces, 1939, Kunsthaus Zürich, gift of Hans Arp, 1958
Jackson Pollock, Number 21, 1951, Kunsthaus Zürich, gift of the Holenia Trust in memory of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1988, © 2019 ProLitteris, Zurich
Hilla von Rebay, With Tenderness, 1946, Kunsthaus Zürich, gift of the artist, 1947, © 2019 The Hilla von Rebay Foundation
Joachim Ringelnatz, Fernes Grab, 1933, Kunsthaus Zürich, bequest of Prof. Erwin R. Jacobi, 1981
Verena Loewensberg, Bild 17, about 1950, Kunsthaus Zürich, Erna and Curt Burgauer Collection, 1979, © 2019 Estate of Verena Loewensberg, Henriette Coray Loewensberg, Zurich
Lovis Corinth, Der Teich, 1886, Kunsthaus Zürich
Fritz Glarner, Painting, 1937, Kunsthaus Zürich, bequest of Louise Glarner, 1979, © 2019 Kunsthaus Zürich, The Estate of Fritz Glarner
Edvard Munch, Kopf bei Kopf, 1905, Kunsthaus Zürich
Hermann Huber, Vorlesende und Knabe, 1940/1941, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1944, © 2019 Estate of Hermann Huber
Käthe Kollwitz, Die Pflüger. Kunsthaus Zürich

One particularly striking feature is the emergence of innovative female artists: works by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Germaine Richier, Isabelle Waldberg, Hilla von Rebays and Verena Loewensberg are some of the densest sections of the exhibition.

Focus on provenance

In parallel with ‘Hour Zero’, the Kunsthaus is presenting the results of a provenance research project supported by the Federal Office of Culture in the Collection of Prints and Drawings. Works that entered the Collection between 1933 and 1950 have been investigated, including pieces by Lovis Corinth, Otto Dix, Käthe Kollwitz and Edvard Munch.

Curator: Philippe Büttner


Image above: Hilla von Rebay, With Tenderness, 1946, Kunsthaus Zürich, gift of the artist, 1947, © 2019 The Hilla von Rebay Foundation