MASI Lugano
10 February – 16 June 2019

Jean Viollier
L'épouvantail charmeur III, 1928
Oil painting on canvas
71 x 51 cm
Association des Amis du Petit Palais, Genève
Photo: Patrick Goetelen, Genève
© 2019, ProLitteris, Zürich


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Surrealism Switzerland

Surrealism, a movement that began in Paris in the mid-twenties around the figure of André Breton, developed independently in Switzerland in an interesting way. Unlike the other twentieth-century “isms”, such as Cubism or Expressionism, Surrealism is not distinguished on the basis of particular formal and stylistic features but by an attitude, an approach to life and art shared by its members, often against the conservative political and social milieu of Europe, becoming in that way roots for progressive ideas. The chronological exhibition path presents to the public the most prominent Swiss Surrealists, starting with two movement’s precursors, Hans Arp and Paul Klee, and continuing with the leading Swiss artists who joined the Surrealist movement, either as standing members of the movement in Paris – such as Alberto Giacometti, Serge Brignoni, Gérard Vulliamy, Kurt Seligmann and Meret Oppenheim – or by bringing the new art current to Switzerland. The link between Swiss artists in Paris and those working in Switzerland promoted the spread and development of Surrealist ideas in Switzerland too, and encouraged the creation of progressive groups such as “Gruppe 33”, whose members included Otto Abt, Walter Bodmer, Walter Kurt Wiemken and Meret Oppenheim, or “Allianz. Vereinigung moderner Schweizer Künstler” (1937), which included Ernst Maass, Leo Leuppi and Hans Erni.

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Kurt Seligmann, Hommage à Urs Graf, 1934 Oil on wood panel, 160.2 x 129.4 cm. Kunstmuseum Bern, Donation Arlette Seligmann, Sugar Loaf © Orange County Citizens Foundation / 2019, ProLitteris, Zürich

Kurt Seligmann
Kurt Seligmann went to Paris in 1929, where he came across works by Max Ernst and Jean Arp and started developing an interest in Surrealism. In his paintings of this period, such as “Hommage à Urs Graf” (1934), organic shapes of eggs, buds, tubers and cells are broken down and assembled with mobile scenic elements to create a bold plastic effect.
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Walter Kurt Wiemken, Das Leben, 1935 Oil on canvas, 180.5 x 125 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, bought thanks to Fondo Schiess 1941 - Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel (Martin P. Bühler)

Walter Kurt Wiemken
War and destruction are recurrent themes in Wiemken’s work, as is the iconographic presence of socially marginalised groups. This negative vision of the world may be attributed to the artist’s past, growing up during the First World War and suffering physical limitations after contracting polio as an infant.
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Paul Klee, Marionetten (bunt auf Schwarz), 1930 Oil on cardboard, 32 x 30.5 cm. Kunsthaus Zürich, Donation Erna e Curt Burgauer © 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich

Paul Klee
Though Paul Klee never identified with the movement, his works were included in Surrealist exhibitions from 1925 onwards. The Surrealists considered the world the artist portrays in his work consistent with their interest in dreams and the unconscious.
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Jean Viollier, Méditations genevoises, 1934 Oil on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Association des Amis du Petit Palais, Genève - Photo: Studio Monique Bernaz, Genf © 2019, ProLitteris, Zürich

Jean Viollier
Jean Viollier moved from Geneva to Paris in 1924, when Surrealism was beginning to have an impact on the Parisian art world. Inspired by Surrealist collages, the artist combines realistic landscapes with elements from the world of fairy-tales, myth and literature to create fantastic images pervaded with magic.
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Max von Moos, Totenklage, 1936 Tempera paint and oil on masonite, 59 x 84 cm. Private collection © Orange County Citizens Foundation / 2019, ProLitteris, Zürich - Photo: SIK-ISEA, Zürich

Max von Moos
Initially focused on fairy-tale landscapes, von Moos soon turned towards paintings with a dark atmosphere full of suffering, destruction and decadence, typical of the period between the two World Wars. Recurrent subjects include fragments or ruins of classical architectures, chimeric entities and allegorical figures, often represented as if carved in stone.
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Alberto Giacometti, Femme couchée qui rêve, 1929 Bronze painted white, 24 x 43 x 13.5 cm. Kunsthaus Zürich, Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung © Succession Alberto Giacometti / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich

Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti began developing his first visionary works when he was admitted to the elitist circle of Parisian Surrealists. In his sculptures of this time, such as “Femme couchée qui rêve” (1929), there are numerous references to violence, sexuality and fetishism: these elements are, however, concealed by a figurative idiom that is primarily symbolic and abstract, characterised by plastic simplicity and linearity.

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The Museum

The Museo d'arte della Svizzera italiana (MASI Lugano), directed by Tobia Bezzola, belongs to a limited group of art museums in Switzerland that are capable of attracting over 100,000 visitors every year and, since its creation, is known as a cultural crossroads between the Northern and Southern Alps. Due to the Collection’s rich supply of temporary exhibitions and installations that are periodically updated, the Museum offers an extensive programme of activities aimed at visitors of all ages at its two exhibition spaces: the newest, the beating heart of the LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura cultural centre, and the historic Palazzo Reali, which will reopen in Autumn 2019 following a major refurbishment. In addition to the two MASI venues, the Collezione Giancarlo e Danna Olgiati is also open to the public during two periods of the year. Included among the 13 Swiss museums endorsed by the Federal Office of Culture for the 2018-2022 five-year period, MASI is part of "Art Museums of Switzerland", the group of art museums selected by Svizzera Turismo as a channel of international tourism promotion.


Museo d'arte della Svizzera italiana
Lugano Arte e Cultura - Piazza Bernardino Luini 6, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland

From Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 –18:00. On Thursday open until 20:00. Closed on Monday.

Special openings: 22.04.2019, 10.06.2019

Tel +41 058 866 42 40
10:00 -13:00 - 14:00-16:00


Full: Chf 20.– Reduced: Chf 14.– AVS/AI, over 65 y.o., groups, students 17–25 y.o.

Free: Younger than 16 y.o., every first Thursday of the month from 17.00 to 20.00

Free guided tour for single visitors every Sunday at 11:00 (online booking)

Guided tour for groups
In italian: Chf 150.–
In french, german or english: Chf 200.–

Combined guided tour for groups
In italian: Chf 250.–
In french, german or english: Chf 300.–

Ph: +41 058 866 42 40

Useful advice for the visit: bags larger than 40x40x20cm, trolleys, backpack and strollers must be stored in the cloakroom.

Schools of Cantone Ticino and Grigioni Italiano
Entrance + guided tour: free

Other schools
Younger than 17 y.o.
In italian: Chf 80.– each group; In french, german or english: Chf 100.– each group

17–25 y.o.
Entrance + visit in italian: Chf 18.– per person; In french, german or english: Chf 20.– per person

Groups and Schools
Ph: +41 058 866 42 30

Complete program of educational activities: