7th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition Biel
About the Exhibition
Five years have passed since the previous Swiss Sculpture Exhibition (SPA) in Biel. In this time general exhibition activities have increased enormously, to a seemingly inflationary degree and endeavours to present art in the most attractive and consumer-friendly manner occasionally veer towards the merely spectacular.
What figure will the SPA cut in this changing landscape? By remaining true to some traditions, such as our specific focus on the artist's personality and concerns; and by continuing to give the exhibition the widest possible scope, not applying selection criteria too narrow-mindedly, we trust that we have managed to preserve the Exhibition's special character.
We consider it our most important mission to provide a platform for the artists to present their latest three-dimensional works – even very large ones – to a wider audience. The exhibition will achieve this task; this much can be deduced from the fact that every other participating artist presents a piece created especially for this event.
To many sculptors the SPA provides an opportunity to show new developments in their oeuvre, while others can meet a wider audience for the first time. For each and every participant, it will be stimulating to see his own works in a new environment, and in juxtaposition to works by a considerable number of colleagues.
To visitors from Switzerland and abroad, the exhibition shall provide a large-scale overview of three-dimensional art created in our country over the course of the past five years. This is an opportunity to see new works by already-known artists, and to discover new sculptors.
Some 1000 works have been submitted by over 300 artists; no direct invitations were sent out. The Jury consisted of four artists representing various tendencies and regions, as well as the two exhibition directors. 171 works by 120 artists have been selected to ensure representativity, variety and a high quality.
The dimensions of about one third of all the works shown here are very large, some of them monumental. The trend towards large dimensions – also to be noted at the international level – contrasts starkly with developments in painting, where the tendency seems to be towards greater intimacy.
In comparison with the previous SPA of 1975, we deem it noteworthy that more artists have reverted to stone and wood while the use of synthetics and concrete has become less common. A strikingly large number of artists have used natural elements such as trees, water and air, and have focused on environmental issues.
In addition to the SPA 1980, a permanent sculpture promenade is being established at Biel's Strandboden, a popular, park-like area on the shore of lake Biel. This is where each year one artist is to be given the opportunity of presenting a larger group of his works. The "Skulpturenplatz" (Sculpture Promenade) will be inaugurated with a retrospective of stone sculptures by Hans Aeschbacher, the recently-deceased Swiss sculptor.
To complement and extend our event, the Kunstverein Biel (Biel Art Association) has organised an exhibition of drawings and graphic art by all participating artists. It will no doubt improve our understanding of the sculptures if we can see how the artist has transferred his visions and ideas to the two-dimensional context. The fact that many sculptors are excellent draughtsmen lends great autonomy to this special exhibition.
In continuation of a project initiated in 1975 to document "Art in Public Space", this year's exhibition will contain some examples of this important topic that is relevant to sculpture and the "environment", among them the outcome of the Swiss contest for the artistic decoration of the new Gymnasium (High School). The works by artist-students of the Berufsschule (Vocational School), presented as projects in 1975, are now nearing completion and are already accessible to the public.
During our Exhibition, a group of artists will be working in open-air studios, or hold events in the exhibition grounds, giving visitors the opportunity of meeting them in person.
Even more than during past exhibitions, we want to consider the wishes of the general public and the situation of Biel. In a simple "Schule des Sehens" (School of Visual Perception), interested visitors may find out about some elementary rules as regards the viewing of sculptural art.
In cooperation with the city of Biel's Department of Culture and several of Biel's cultural organisations, some accompanying events have been organised to enrich our Exhibition and connect it with the city's cultural activities.
In the run-up to our Exhibition, a considerable number of classes from Biel's schools have worked on projects addressing the topic of "Wir leben in unserer Stadt" (We live in our city). We do hope that these projects have raised the awareness of both students and parents as regards their daily environments, and that they may have stimulated the creativity of our city's inhabitants.
During the previous Sculpture Exhibition of 1975, various projects concerning our city's "livability" were realised, such as the pedestrian walkway at Mühlebrücke; and the removal of car-parks from the squares in the Old Town. This year we have again endeavoured to suggest and implement urbanistic changes proposed by artists to prove that artistic ideas and works can have an immediate, positive impact on our quality of life. Sadly, our hopes have been dashed to realise a low-cost project initiated by the Municipal Head Gardener to transform the gardens to the south of the Neuhaus Foundation into a public recreation park and area. In the context of this year's Sculpture Exhibition, we also suggested holding a contest for the design and conservation of Biel's Bahnhofplatz (Station Square), which by now may well be a unique example of its kind in Switzerland. While our suggestion was received with interest, we deeply regret to say that it was postponed to an indefinite point in the future. We do hope that it will be possible to preserve the original function of this square, which is of great significance to the city of Biel.
We are, however, very happy to acknowledge the generous support of the Direction of the HTL (Higher Technical College) and the Municipal Authorities as well as the Neuhaus Foundation and the Lyceum Club, which has enabled us to use some essential interior spaces.
It is the SPA Exhibition organisers' earnest wish to present to our visitors an impressive overview of the diversity and high quality of sculptural art in Switzerland. If this goal has been achieved yet again in 1980, we owe it to the participating artists and their often extraordinary efforts.
Maurice Ziegler / Alain Tschumi, Artistic Directors, SPA
© Translation from German, August 2008: Margret Powell-Joss