2nd Swiss Open-Air Sculpture Exhibition Biel
Swiss Sculpture in 1958
The 1st Swiss Open-Air Sculpture Exhibition (1. Schweizerische Plastikausstellung im Freien) took place in Biel-Bienne in 1954. Despite a predominance of contemporary works, it was also a retrospective, a summary overview of sculptural art in our country across the past twenty or thirty years. The earliest works, created by Carl Burckhardt, even dated back to the years of 1901 to 1916.
The 2nd Exhibition of 1958 intends to present an overview of current sculpture. With a few exceptions, only works have been accepted that were created from 1954 to 1958.
It was our wish to make an impartial selection of the best works, regardless of their style. The jury consisted of four sculptors – two each to represent figurative and abstract art, respectively.
Any sculptor of Swiss nationality or resident in Switzerland was entitled to submit his work.
The jury personally invited sixteen figurative and abstract artists, in equal numbers. However, they also had to submit their works to the jury's assessment. In all, one hundred and thirty tons of sculptures created by over one hundred artists converged in Biel; the jury proceeded to select one hundred and twenty-nine works by sixty-four artists.
This overview of contemporary sculpture in Switzerland presents monumental works; the regulations excluded works with a maximum diameter of less than sixty centimetres from the competition. Hence, there are almost no busts or figurines.
An inevitable problem is that of integrating the works into a whole: the forms designed by the artist must harmonise with the surrounding architecture. A work of art must be created according to its destination – the cathedral of Reims exudes a different spirit than a sober concrete building of the present era. The twentieth-century artist must and wants to be a child of his time; he shall have new things to say and cannot compare himself with a thirteenth-century statuary. It is therefore not surprising that our exhibition contains predominantly non-figurative forms; abstract art is characteristic of our times, and complements our architecture.
Abstract art has also become fashionable. However, it is not related to present events alone. Nor is it the only valid means of expression: figurative sculpture also attempts to venture into new ground to remain current. Several of the submitted works bear eloquent witness to this spirit.
Now we would like to invite the visitor to express himself; specialists and laymen may take the floor; voices for and against will be heard at the round-table. May he who will sneer at today's art linger for a while and open his eyes. He will become aware that modern sculptures contain a truth that each one of us must rediscover for himself.
It is the mission of modern sculpture to seek for the absolute truth, which probably is an attainable goal. Reality, however, changes its face to each generation and so art must follow life in its continuous evolution. As he continuously renews his interpretation of the world, the viewer has to find his bearings and if he is of a conformist disposition, the impartiality and empathetic effort required will not come naturally to him.
In the short period of four years a considerable number of monumental works has been created by the artists of this small country. It is a resounding defiance of all those who predicted the agony of sculpture. On the contrary, it embodies a wealth of artistic inspiration. Many of our artists deserve our attention; some have enjoyed an international reputation. May our exhibition contribute to giving contemporary art the place it deserves yet must all too often defend against art from bygone times.
Dr. Marcel Joray
© Translation from German, July 2008: Margret Powell-Joss