By Jonathan Levy, Head of DACH Region

The German-speaking Art world emerged from this year’s seemingly endless summer, with a hat trick of overlapping gallery weekends. Zurich, Munich and Berlin all opened their respective versions of the Corona-friendly format on the second weekend of September, to regional visitors anxious to experience Art IRL.

My forays took me to most galleries, museums and artist-run spaces in and around Zurich, followed by a day trip to Munich, where I was able to visit two extraordinary exhibitions at the Museum Brandhorst and immerse myself in the Bavarian capital’s gallery scene.


My Zurich Art Weekend started on Thursday evening, with a visit to Acrush, a production company on the industrial outskirts of Zurich. Acrush works with international galleries, museums and artists to realize ambitious large-scale commissions and exhibition projects. The impressive roster of artists includes names like Urs Fischer, Rob Pruitt, Paul McCarthy and the American artist, Darren Bader, with whom Acrush produced a special AI-experience to mark the occasion.

Figure 1: Installation view of Darren Bader “Character Study”, Courtesy the artist and Acrush, Zurich

Bader’s work falls into a variety of categories, including “trash”- and “impossible” sculptures, “pairings” and “collaborative installations”. Using a range of experimental media, Bader explores inter-connections between seemingly disparate narratives and objects and presents the viewer with surprising and often humorous juxtapositions. In the current exhibition, entitled “Character Study”, Bader expands and confuses the object nature of art. He presents an experience in augmented reality that merges guided city walks in New York and Zurich, simultaneously. These walks are accompanied by an AR-character that can be produced and purchased in any desired scale. One version of the 3D character – part turtle, part cartoon – is placed at the centre of the exhibition space. The walls show posters of “Scott Mendes”, Bader’s fictitious travel agent, whom the artist developed as a mobile application for the 2019 Venice Biennale, to add an extra layer of content to the already crowded Arsenale and Central Pavillion exhibitions.

Over at Karma International, visitors are invited to explore the gallery’s massive 2-floor extension in an empty furniture showroom. The group exhibition in the new space combines exceptional works on paper by Meret Oppenheim and Bauhaus stage proposals by Xanti Schawinsky from the 1930s, with large paintings by Ida Ekblad and installation pieces by Sylvie Fleury, Pamela Rosenkranz, Ser Serpas and Vivian Suter.

Figure 2: Installation view of Karma International with works by Ida Ekblad, Sylvie Fleury and Vivian Suter. Photo courtesy Karma International, Zurich

Across the street, the gallery presents an exhibition curated by former artistic director of Documenta, Adam Szymczyk. The show is dedicated to Elisabeth Wild, whose colourful geometric collages, made from found magazine clippings, contrast against works by Raúl Itamar Lima and Sophie Thun.

The Swiss response to London’s Mayfair gallery scene, is the area between the infamous Kronenhalle restaurant and the soon-to-be opened, David Chipperfield-designed Kunsthaus.

Opening on Friday afternoon, ZAW-visitors were invited to discover shows by Georg Baselitz (Levy Gorvy with Rumbler), Mira Schor (Fabian Lang Gallery), Jannis Kounellis (Larkin Erdmann), Matt Mullican (Galerie Mai 36) and Sarah Slappey (Gallery Maria Bernheim). Galerie Eva Presenhuber opened a new gallery on Waldmannstrasse, with a solo exhibition of large, colourful works by the American painter, Joe Bradley.

Figure 3: Installation view, Tobias Spichtig “Subtitles for Footnotes”, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Bernhard, Zurich

Next door, at Tobias Mueller Modern Art, visitors are greeted by wall-mounted installations and large paintings by American artists, including Julian Schnabel, Terry Winters, Virginia Overton, Philip Taafe and Tim Rollins & K.O.S (Kids of Survival). Climbing up the stairs to Galerie Bernhard on the second floor, we find an intimate display of new works by the Swiss-born, Berlin-based artist,  Tobias Spichtig, whose paintings of sunglasses and resin sculptures of languid figures radiate the sense of primitive coolness inherent to underground youth culture, which creates the perfect transition from the elegant showrooms of uptown Rämistrasse to the local scene of artist- and curator run off-spaces that would round off my Zurich Art Weekend after a good night’s rest.


On Monday I left for Munich to catch the end of “Various Others”, a slightly different response to the Zurich and Berlin gallery weekends. The event is organized and hosted by VFAMK E.V., the Society for the Promotion of Munich’s External Perception as a Cultural Location. In this year’s edition the organizers asked local gallerists to host cooperative art projects together with other foreign gallery friends.

Galerie Nagel Draxler invited Lars Friedrich (Berlin) to its recently opened Munich dependence, for a sensual exhibition of paintings by the German abstract painter, Stefan Müller and a group of large scale leather leaves by the South Korean artist Min Yoon.

Other visiting galleries include Thomas Dane (at Jahn und Jahn), Sultana and Peres Projects (at Nir Altman), Emanuel Layr (at SPERLING) and Esther Schipper (at Walter Storms Gallery).

Figure 4: Installation view, “The Brandhorst Collection” with works by Cady Noland and Louise Lawler, Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Levy

The highlight of my trip to Munich, however, was the impressive collection display at the Museum Brandhorst, and the fantastic mini-retrospective by Glaswegian artist, Lucy McKenzie (1977).

Walking into the museum, I stared down the barrel of Patty Hearst’s machine gun, in one of my favourite works by the American artist, Cady Noland. The menacing sculpture is placed against a huge backdrop by Louise Lawler and is flanked by two St. Petersburg-style displays of works by Andy Warhol. The Brandhorst collection spans the period from 1950 to the present day and boasts not only the largest collection of works by Warhol, but also substantial holdings of works by Cy Twombly that fill the entire upstairs galleries.

Art installation of scraps of paper, pictures, and notes on a large corkboard.
Figure 5: Lucy McKenzie, Quodlibet XX (Fascism), 2012, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp

Walking down the large staircase into the museum’s belly, the first thing I notice is a long painting by Lucy McKenzie, entitled “Mooncup”, originally designed to mimic a multi-storey advertising banner. It leads into the artist’s first retrospective exhibition, which curator Jacob Proctor structures along the artist’s successive artistic phases. The show begins with a salon display of paintings, reminiscent of McKenzie’s Dundee diploma show in the late 1990s and moves through different iconic bodies of her work. The interest in painting and its conceptual potential was strongly influenced by German painters like Kai Althoff and Martin Kippenberger, whom McKenzie discovered during an Erasmus exchange in Karlsruhe. Her blown-up architectural maquettes reference the work of early modern architects like Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Adolf Loos. McKenzie creates fantastically immersive spaces that shrink the viewer and invite reflections on the power shared by architecture, design and authoritarian regimes. McKenzie’s further studies at the Van Der Kelen School for decorative painting in Belgium resulted in a series of “Quadlibet-”paintings. McKenzie uses these arranged inorganic still lives as powerful moodboards on which to experiment, juxtapose and confront themes of social and political tension. In one such moodboard McKenzie imagines the task of an interior designer, balancing colours, materials nd surfaces for a Fascist bathroom, with a glass door aptly labelled “Avanti”.

Figure 6: Lucy McKenzie & Beca Lipscombe (Atelier E.B.), “Faux Shop”, Courtesy the artist and Cabinet Gallery, London

Delighted by the humorous, thought-provoking and enormously skillful display of Lucy MkKenzie’s work, I leave the museum in search of a typical Munich “Wirtshaus” and the hope that I will continue to be able to travel and experience more great exhibitions as the months get colder.