The first Swiss Sculpture Exhibition (ESS-SPA-SPA) was founded by Marcel Joray (1910–1996) in 1954 and held in a school yard. Throughout his life, Marcel Joray remained true to his conviction that contemporary sculpture should be exhibited in the public spaces and organised five editions of the ESS-SPA-SPA. In his view, sculpture was the most appropriate means of bringing modern and even contemporary art closer to a broad public, even if, as he wrote in the catalogue in 1954, it would take a long time for the public to recognise this art.
At regular intervals, thirteen editions of the ESS-SPA have followed one another between 1954 and 2019, all faithful to Marcel Joray's credo. In 1974, the ESS-SPA was transformed into a foundation. For each edition, the foundation hires one or more curators to produce the exhibition. Artists, such as Thomas Hirschhorn in 2019, have also taken on this mission.
By organising this artistic event, which is unique in Switzerland in terms of its size, Biel and the Foundation are offering the opportunity to take stock of the art world at a given point in time. The Swiss Sculpture Exhibition has thus become a unique event in Switzerland, both for the artists and for the public.