Why Saint Moritz Is the Destination for Art Lovers This Winter
The scene in this glitzy Alpine town goes beyond skiing with must-see shows by shows by Gerhard Richter, Rolf Sachs, and more
Last weekend, Saint Moritz was at peak glitz. The well-heeled ski resort in the heart of the Swiss Alps was the site of luxe Italian outerwear brand Moncler’s latest fashion show–an event that turned a snowy mountain-top into a catwalk, and attracted the A-list likes of Anne Hathaway and Kate Moss.
A week earlier, however, the area was hosting a very different crowd at the Engadin Art Talks: a “forum of art, architecture, design, literature and innovation” that first took place in 2010 in the village of Zuoz, a 20-minute drive north-east of St. Moritz. Founded by Swiss curator and art historian Hans Ulrich Obrist and art collector and publisher Cristina Bechtler, the annual event’s executive board now includes Koyo Kouoh, the chief curator of Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa whose landmark show of black figurative painting, “When We See Us,” opens at the Kunstmuseum Basel in May.
“The Engadin art scene is very lively and has a long cultural tradition,” says Giorgia von Albertini, director of Hauser & Wirth’s St. Moritz gallery space, which opened in 2018. “Many writers, thinkers, and artists have made work here, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Giovanni Segantini, Alberto Giacometti, and, of course, Gerhard Richter,” she adds, referencing the current show of Richter’s work that is inspired by his time spend in the Engadin and spans three locations.
“In recent years, the Engadin has positioned itself as a destination for art lovers,” says Polish entrepreneur and art collector Grazyna Kulczyk, highlighting Hauser & Wirth, but also Swiss artist Not Vital’s Tarasp Castle (which can be visited via a guided tours) and the annual Engadin Art Talks among the area’s attractions.
“The Engadin art scene is very lively and has a long cultural tradition"Giorgia von Albertini, director of Hauser & Wirth St. Moritz
Kulczyk’s own contribution, Muzeum Susch, is another major draw. Opened in 2019, the space housed in a former vicarage and hospice in the picturesque village of Susch has a particular focus on promoting the work of female artists. It is currently shining a light on the late and relatively little known Estonian artist Anu Põder—an exhibition curated by Cecilia Alemani, who headed up the 2022 Venice Biennale 2022.
Elsewhere, dealers, gallerists, and curators are commandeering barns and churches, and putting this snowy enclave on the map for more than its postcard-pretty scenery and enviable après-ski scene (but also with the odd fondue dinner half-way up a mountain, as hosted by this year’s Engadin Art Talks, in the mix).
1. Gerhard Richter: Engadine is at Hauser & Wirth St Moritz, the Segantini Museum and Nietzsche-Haus, Sils, through April 13
The first Richter show dedicated to the artist’s relationship with the Alpine landscape brings together more than 70 works (on loan from museums and private collections), inspired by the artist’s holidays in the area over more than 25 years. The Hauser & Wirth space is dominated by small-scale, overpainted photographs of the Engadin – variously splattered and squeegeed, which were first presented in 1992 at Nietzsche-Haus – a picturesque guesthouse in the village of Sils where Friedrich Nietzsche spent seven summers.
These intimate, painterly, postcard-like images continue into St Moritz’s Segantini Museum, where Richter’s Alpine scenesm including the standout 1997 painting Wasserfall (Waterfall), are shown in parallel with the work of Giovanni Segantini. The 19th-century Italian artist is best known for his depictions of Swiss mountain scenery, painted en plein air, and his monumental trio of paintings titled La vita (1896/99), La natura (1897/99) and La morte (1898/99) currently circles around a Richter steel sphere (part of an edition) stamped “Piz Sella”, after a local mountain.
2. Rolf Sachs: So ein Mist! (What B.S) is at Stalla Madulain, through March 17
An atmospheric 500-year-old barn in the village of Madulain has become the poetic and playful universe of polymath artist Rolf Sachs, who grew up in the region. Outdoor sculptures include Ewiger Lauf [Perpetual Run] (2016), a graphic neon ode to the sound of falling rainwater, and the towering tree-like Boundless (2023), its simple, stacking form nodding to mountain architecture. Inside, the stable and basement slaughterhouse give way to enigmatic light sculptures, wrought from punctuated milk cans and buckets, and Sachs’s new Défroissage paintings, which take the crumpling and uncrumpling of canvas or paper as their starting point.
But it’s the top-floor hayloft, partly open to the elements, which has the most impact. Here, an installation of salt titled Einsamkeit [Loneliness] (2023) fills the spaces either side of a central platform. On one wall, a video work evokes the magic of night-time snowfall, while on another a series of vitrines honours the building’s history, displaying manure, wool, hay and horsehair with surprising elegance.
Light is Therefore Colour at Galerie Tschudi, through March 23
In the village of Zuoz, a medieval Engadine house has been rethought as a spacious multilevel gallery that stretches from the basement up into the rafters. The current group show is inspired by the snowy, sunny Engadin winters, ranging from an Andrea Büttner reverse glass painting to a neon text work by Welsh multimedia artist Bethan Huws: White Grey Black (2016)
Behind a door labelled “To the former ‘Hay Barn’”, a striking meditative space combines a steel Carl Andre floor sculpture with Julian Charrière’s apocalyptic photo series Controlled Burn (2023), in which burst of fireworks illuminate an open-cast coal mine or a decommissioned power station. That the space reverberates with the rhythmic sound of Korean artist Kimsooja’s video installation (To Breathe: Invisible Mirror / Invisible Needle, 2003-2005) adds to the immersive effect.
Anu Põder: Space for My Body is at Muzeum Susch, through June 30
“We are proud to have finally given Anu Põder the international recognition her work deserves, by organising her first international retrospective outside her native country,” says Kulczyk of the show of that spans work from 1978 to 2012, from igurative assemblages of dolls and mannequins to sculptures created from items of clothing.
Robilant+Voena’s St Moritz 2023-24 Season, through March 3
With spaces in London Milan and New York, Robilant+Voena’s program ranges from Old Masters to contemporary artists, and now includes Alpine pop-ups. As well as an exhibition of Monegasque artist Philippe Pastor at the Forum Paracelsus—a bathing house based around the town’s mineral springs—the gallery is hosting 20th-Century Masterworks from Private Collections at St Moritz’s Protestant Church, including works by Lucio Fontana, Sam Francis and Damien Hirst.