Myrtha Hollenweger's butterfly-strewn Swiss flag at the Hans Erni Museum in Lucerne, part of the Typically Swiss exhibition showcasing works by the Swiss Papercut Association

Lucerne for art lovers | Quay of life | Masters and makers

Cool, understated elegance that belies inner sparkle and sizzle.

Surrealists, cubists, pop artists, paper cutters – just a couple of days in Lucerne and you’ve met the best. Susan Skelly plots an art trail…


Summer lovin’: making the most of Lake Lucerne, the sunshine, the alps and the swans.

I’m walking along the quay by Lake Lucerne, not far from the famous wooden Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge). To my right, the postcard-pretty lake with its alpine backdrop; on my left, a plaza of big, fat painted hearts, each on its own plinth, announcing artist and title.

Lucerne’s art is as front and centre as its lauded landscape.

Along the promenade, more than 60 artists have painted synthetic resin hearts for HeartBeats, a touring exhibition established last year by art lovers Claudia Knie and Carolina Caroli to raise money for young people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The feelgood hearts are painted with scenes, symbols, declarations of love, messages, birds, hands and hope.

Sixty artists contributed hearts to Lucern’s HeartBeats hub.

There’s Irene Steiner’s Key to My Heart; Oliver Hohas’s Hidden Treasure, a glow of emerald-green with a  frond-like imprint; Delphine de Raemy’s paisley Gaia; and Mikko Ojala’s collage, Good News Only.

They’ll be auctioned off at the end of the year. Eighty five percent of funds raised go to charity, distributed by Swiss Solidarity, and 15% to the artists.

Since its launch, HeartBeats has been winning hearts in Bern, Zurich, Rapperswil, and, lately, Lucerne; it moves to Ascona, in the south, in September.

“The heart symbolizes hope, stands for emotions – for life,” says Knie. “We love colour, we love creativity, we love art! Above all, we love people. We want to put a smile on their faces, amaze them and give them hope for the future.”  

Draw fold, draw fold

The Museum in Bell Park, a beautiful family house called Villa Florida was designed by architect Emil Vogt in 1911. Now it’s a forum for history, photography and art, and when I visit, home to an intriguing exhibition called Draw together: 201 Cadavres Exquis (201 Exquisite Corpses).

The Bell Park Museum was once a grand family home designed by Emil Vogt in 1911.

Inspired by a conversation with Umberto Eco about the disappearance of handwriting, Swiss-born art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist (artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London) resurrected a game that was popular with the surrealists in the 1920s.

On a sheet of paper (in this case A4) you draw a body part or whatever you feel like drawing, then fold it over and pass it to the next person to add to, without him/her knowing what the previous drawing was. And so on. This creates a figure as a collective collage, the “cadavres exquis”. When finished, the sheet is unfolded and the amusement begins. A bit of an art lucky dip.

It is part of Obrist’s Handwriting Projects, and he never misses an opportunity to rope architects, artists, writers and designers into a new round of the game. The exhibition boasts scribbles by luminaries such as Laurie Anderson, Miuccia Prada, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaus, Jean Nouvel, and Ai Weiwei. It’s an ode to the pen and shared, participatory drawing in the media age.

The drawing to promote the collaborative 201 Exquisite Corpses exhibition at Bell Park Museum, Lucerne.

Obrist’s Instagram account, hansulrichobrist, which has 396,000 followers, has plenty of examples to check out.

Address: ParkLuzernerstrasse 21, Kriens. Open: Wednesday to Friday 2pm-5pm, Saturday 11am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm;

The Swiss Picasso

Twenty minutes away and I’m strolling along the Hans Erni Quai, named for the artist whose 1998 bronze sculpture, Hippomenes und Atalante, is positioned on the lakefront, along with a plaque noting his death in 2015, aged 106. (His sister died the year before him, aged 107.)

The Hans Erni Museum, part of the Swiss Museum of Transport, features 300 of thousands of works by this prolific Swiss graphic designer, painter, illustrator, engraver and sculptor, whose practice embraced stamps, bank notes, public murals, theatre costumes and sets, as well as ceramics. (He curated his hero Pablo Picasso’s first Swiss show at the Lucerne Museum of Fine Arts.)

On the third level, the day we visit, is an exhibition of more than 70 works by members of the Swiss Papercut Association, who capture the country’s day to day life in Typically Swiss, découpage from small format works to large installations. See Swiss Army knives, clocks, swans, cows, chalets – and Myrtha Hollenweger’s intricate butterfly-strewn flag. It’s all there in the kind of fine traditional craft detail that Hans Erni admired.

 When you’re done, explore the Swiss Museum of Transport which manages to make the world of logistics seriously sexy.

 Address: Lidostrasse 6. Open: April to October, 11am-6pm; November to March, 11am-5pm;

Making an impression

The Real Picasso is writ large at the Museum Rosengart Collection, which started life as the collection of art dealer Siegfried Rosengart and his daughter, Angela. The beautiful Angela Rosengart was frequently painted and sketched by Picasso.

In 1992, Rosengart established the Rosengart Foundation to enable her to put the works in her private collection on public display. In 2000, she purchased a 1924 building in Lucerne that used to be the Swiss National Bank. It became the museum’s permanent home in 2002.

The Rosengart Collection brings together more than 300 Classic Modernist and Impressionist works of art.

In the basement are 125 watercolours, drawings and oil paintings by Paul Klee (1879-1940), the Swiss-born German artist influenced by expressionism, cubism, and surrealism.

The ground floor is dedicated to works by Pablo Picasso, arranged in chronological order which allows visitors to trace the development of the artist through paintings from 1938 to 1969.

Picasso’s drawings and prints are on the second floor. So are his five portraits of Angela Rosengart. In addition to the Picassos, works by more than 20 other artists are also displayed – potent cameo roles from Money, Renoir, Cézanne, Kandinsky, Georges Braque and Pierre Bonnard.

 Address: 10 Pilatusstrasse. Open: April to October, 10am-6pm daily (including public holidays); November to March, 11am-5pm daily (including public holidays);

Moving target

David Hockney, the master of reinvention, is in town. Now, that’s a stroke of luck! An exhibition of the British artist’s work, Moving Focus, is at the Kunstmuseum Luzern, right by the train station, until October 30.

While the title references Hockney’s 1980s works, it is a retrospective of works from 1954 to 2018, encompassing genres from naturalist to abstract and his romance with the iPad, reconciling approaches that are both traditional and innovative.

A highlight is the tangle of branches in the landscape Bigger Trees Near Warter Or/Ou Peinture Sur Le Motif Pour Le Nouvel Age Post-Photographique (2007), which, at 12 metres wide, consists of 50 canvases.

There are the colourful panoramas of the Hotel Romano Angeles in Acatlán, Mexico; portraits of his mother and his friend, green-eyed British fashion designer Celia Birtwell; comments on perspective; and one of his earliest works, created at 17, Woman with a Sewing Machine.

Upcoming at the Museum of Art Luzern are exhibitions by Shara Hughes, Roee Rosen and Claudia Kübler.

Address: Europaplatz 1. Open during Hockney: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm; Wednesday 10am-7pm; Monday closed;

Icy predictions

The retreating of glaciers is a big topic of conversation all over Switzerland. There are many walks that mark, at regular intervals, spots where glaciers used to reach. At the Glacier Garden you can travel back in time and see what Lucerne looked like when the landscape was covered by glaciers. Or when subtropical palm beaches were a feature of the landscape.

At the Glacier Garden are kettle basins dating from the last Ice Age, 20,000 years ago. As well as fossilised shells and palm leaves from the subtropical ocean region some 20 million years ago.

Address: Denkmalstrasse 4. Open: April to October 9am-6pm daily; November to March 10am-5pm daily;

Photos Susan Skelly and Supplied by Lucerne Tourism


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.