Apollo Magazine

Around the galleries – a tour of Geneva’s Old Town, plus other highlights

The convivial event offers visitors the chance to roam the medieval streets of the Swiss capital in search of art ancient and modern

Vertumne et Pomone 1620 Abraham Govaerts

Vertumne et Pomone (1620), Abraham Govaerts. De Jonckheere, Geneva

From the April 2022 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here

Art en Vieille Ville

With the art world steeling itself for a frantic summer, as major fairs in Maastricht, Basel, London and Paris jostle for attention, events in Geneva this spring promise a moment of welcome tranquillity. It is now 15 years since the city’s leading galleries and dealerships first banded together for Art en Vieille Ville, a convivial event that allows connoisseurs and casual visitors to roam the medieval streets around St Peter’s Cathedral in search of artworks ancient and modern. 

Tourists might like to visit the Galerie Grand Rue for ‘Travel in Swiss Art’, a show that reminds us that Geneva was an essential stopping place for travellers crossing the Alps on the Grand Tour to Italy. Perhaps the highlights are two gouache landscapes by the Prussian painter Carl Hackert, who in the 1780s depicted Lake Geneva amid peaks and glaciers with all the ‘calm and heavenly’ serenity described by Mary Shelley a few decades later. 

Vue prise à Divone (1784), Carl Hackert. Galerie Grand Rue, Geneva

Courtesy of Salomon Lilian and De Jonckheere, Dutch and Flemish Old Masters remain a particular strength of the event this year. The former unveils a landscape oil sketch of a River Landscape with Boats, overhung by wide murky skies, by Salomon van Ruysdael, new on the market from a French private collection; at De Jonckheere is a lush and lyrical oil on copper by Abraham Govaerts, a follower of Jan Brueghel the Elder. This depicts the scene from Ovid in which Vertumnus, god of the seasons and of transformation, tries to seduce Pomona, the goddess of fruit. 

Galerie Sonia Zannettacci offers more modern fare in the form of illustrations by the Belgian tachiste Pierre Alechinsky, while at Galerie Rosa Turetsky are recent works by the French artist Isa Barbier, who turns feathers, petals and mirrors into delicate installations. At Schifferli, works by Picasso, Ernst and other modernists are presented alongside a selection of African and Oceanic sculptures, including a Dan sculpture once owned by the dealer Paul Guillaume, who did much to promote Parisian interest both in avant-garde movements such as Cubism and the traditional arts of Africa. 

Turning back to home, the Librairie l’Exemplaire is presenting an exhibition dedicated to illustrated Swiss books of the 20th century, spanning the 1930s and the 1980s; the highlight here is a rare edition of Six engravings on linoleum by Marc Chagall, published by Gérald Cramer in 1984, when both artist and gallerist were in their final years. Bibliophiles should also beeline to the Fondation Martin Bodmer, one of Art en Vieille Ville’s museum partners, which presents ‘The Making of Dante’ – an exploration of how the poet has been read in the seven centuries since his death, through rarely seen manuscripts and editions (until 28 August). One of the strengths of Art en Vieille Ville has always been its ties with Geneva’s museums – not least the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, which has this year given carte blanche to the art historian Jean-Hubert Martin to rehang the municipal collections. Through more than 800 pieces, Martin has undertaken a display that presents best-loved works such as Konrad Witz’s Miraculous Draught of Fishes in a new light, while also dusting off forgotten pieces from the storerooms.

Art en Vieille Ville is at various venues, Geneva, from 5–7 May

Gallery highlights

Marthe nue de face, étude pour Marie (1898), Pierre Bonnard. Galerie AB, Paris

Bonnard/Vuillard – A Friendship
14 April–28 May
Galerie AB, Paris

‘If I wrote to you every time I think about you, our past, painting, etc., you would have a library to look through.’ So wrote Édouard Vuillard to Pierre Bonnard in 1940, a few weeks before he died at the age of 72. With more than 70 drawings, compiled over more than 25 years, this display retraces the long friendship between these two pioneers of the French avant-garde, exploring how they spurred each other to new discoveries. 

Sun Xun: An Infinite Journey
Until 26 April
ShanghART, Shanghai

The Chinese artist Sun Xun has become renowned for working in traditional mediums such as woodcut and ink painting and with modern digital technology, frequently combining the two in his expressionistic films. This display, Xun’s first solo show at ShanghART, brings together materials relating to his feature-length animation Magic of Atlas – Luocha, including the original woodblocks.

Josef Hoffmann/Hans Ofner
Until 7 May
Galerie Bei der Albertina – Zetter, Vienna

Coinciding with a major survey of Hoffmann’s work at Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts, this show presents Jugendstil ceramics, silverware, furniture and other objects by the pioneering designer, architect and co-founder of the Vienna Secession and the Wiener Werkstätte; also on show are works by Hoffmann’s protégé Hans Ofner, including the remarkable furnishings he designed for the vast Villa Godderidge, Saint Pölten, in 1911. 

Towards Modernity
27 April–27 May
Connaught Brown, London

This show offers the chance to retrace the history of modernism, exploring how successive generations of painters broke from the traditions that went before. It extends from the Impressionism of Camille Pissarro through to the Cubism of Jacques Lipchitz and Louis Marcoussis and the dream-like visions of Marc Chagall and Raoul Dufy. Pictured is a work by André Lhote depicting a game of rugby – the Bordeaux-born Cubist’s favourite sport. 

Les Footballeurs (rugby) (1916), André Lhote. Connaught Brown

Fairs in focus

London Art Fair
20–24 April
Business Design Centre, London

The 34th edition of London Art Fair includes more than 100 galleries; while its particular strength remains modern and contemporary British art there are also emerging galleries from around the world. 

Art Brussels
28 April–1 May
Tour & Taxis, Brussels

Belgium’s leading contemporary art fair returns for its 38th edition with around 150 international galleries. Displays range from big-name artists to emerging talents and overlooked masters of the 20th century.    

Art Paris
7–10 April
Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris

After a successful edition that inaugurated the new Grand Palais Éphémère last year, Art Paris returns with some 130 galleries; highlights include a focused look at the contemporary French art scene.

From the April 2022 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here

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