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The Zurich art scene is not only up and coming -- it's already arrived. Museums and galleries are being constructed at a staggering pace as the city transforms itself into what many call the "European Capital of Art," and one of the most important art scenes in the world. A conversation with Dr. Christoph Becker, the new director at the Kunsthaus Zurich.

Swiss News: "The Zurich art scene is the most important in Europe, if not the entire world"--is there any truth to this statement?

Christoph Becker: Zurich is today one of the most interesting cities in Europe for artists and museum curators and anyone else involved in art and culture, as well as an international audience.

How did this happen?

The quality and significance of Zurich's art scene is based primarily on the cultural diversity and active involvement of several large cultural groups, but it also gets a lot of its energy from a very friendly political and financial environment in the area of visual art, theatre and music. Zurich profits from this atmosphere through its development as a focal point for the international art scene and foreign and domestic museum visitors. You also can't forget the degree to which the financial and economic establishment has realised the importance of the arts and culture as a major factor in improving and/or enhancing the standard of living in the city-the art and theatre scene in Zurich greatly contributes to its overall attractiveness as a place to live and work, which in effect has a positive influence on the image of the businesses located here.

What has changed over the last 20 years? How were things 20 years ago?

The Kunsthaus Zurich is currently at a crossroads. It has just undergone a major change of nerations with the nomination of myself as the new museum director this at a time when a number of private collectors are busy establishing their own museums, which in effect offers the audience a wide range of artistic genres and exhibit formats. The Kunsthaus, as a privately founded institution, dedicated itself in the past to the concept of "Service public" and with that has throughout the decades gained the trust and loyalty of a very broad audience. The funding for the Kunsthaus' upcoming renovation project (to commence later this year) was approved by 72 per cent of Zurich's residents. Due to the fact that we finance more than 50 per cent of our activities out of our own pocket, we are able to do things with our permanent collections, restorations, educational programmes and exhibits that, purely commercially speaking, other private institutions are not capable of doing.

The "Verein Zurcher Kunstfreunde" (a Zurich art endowment) and our long-time sponsor Credit Suisse Private Banking are extremely supportive of our vision of a "contemporary museum." It is for this reason that we have now committed ourselves to the Kunsthaus' expansion plans which will create more space for the works of young Swiss artists as well as more space for donations from private persons and institutions.

What brought you to Zurich?

I was very happy to come to Zurich and really enjoy living and working here for the reasons I've mentioned. The city really has a lot to offer, it is manageable and also highly accessible-Zurich is well connected. Compared to your experiences in other countries, what sets the Zurich art scene apart?

Zurich is well known for its harmonious marriage of working and living, and the landscape seems to have a very positive effect on the people who live and work here. Zurich isn't as big as, say, London or Paris--but that obviously has no effect on its standard of living. As far as the art scene goes, the influence of curators in Anglo Saxon countries, for example, is clearly visible as many of them are the owners, or part owners, of private museums, which means they have a lot of control over what is considered "museum material," and what is not. In Switzerland, a decentralised approach prevails and the strictly commercial interests of a few individuals is kept to a mini mum. In Switzerland collecting, presenting and exhibiting are more often determined by a large panel or board of individuals who collectively make decisions regarding these matters, which greatly affects the diversity and range of the art scene.
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Title Annotation:arts industry in Zurich
Comment:A COLLECTIVE EFFORT.(arts industry in Zurich)
Publication:Swiss News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EXSI
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Previous Article:Readers's Letters.

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