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Artistic castle Historic landmark passes to artist’s hands

Prince Philip of Hesse, on the left, hands the keys to the Castle of Tarasp to the artist Not Vital

(Keystone)

A Swiss local artist signed papers to take ownership of a 12th-century castle that is an important tourist destination, after gaining community approval – and a deal for upkeep.

The artist known as Not Vitalexternal link became the owner of the Castle of Tarasp, which he bought for CHF8 million ($8.3 million) from an aristocratic German family. The town of Scuol, in the Lower Engadine region of the Swiss Alps, overwhelmingly voted in favour of the purchase last year.

‘It's a great day for me,’ Not Vital said in a statement on Wednesdayexternal link. ‘Many people have helped me realise this purchase and I thank them. I also thank the young people of the valley who have supported me enthusiastically from the start. I will put every effort into making this castle a place of culture and meetings, and thus contribute to the attractiveness of the town and the region's economy.’

The picturesque castle, changing hands over time, is a stunning landmark

(Keystone)

Changing hands

Build atop a fortress of rock, the castle is one of the most photographed in Switzerland and has a history of eccentric owners. Since it is a Swiss heritage site with national significance, the historic castle’s upkeep and protection must be assured. The artist also had to agree to keep a museum open to the public.

Its ownership was violently disputed during the Middle Ages, and the castle was considered part of Austria during the 15th century before Napoleon assigned it to the Swiss republic in 1803. The canton of Graubünden, lacking money to maintain the castle, sold it to a local man in 1829, after which it kept changing hands and was ransacked for its wood furnishings and other furniture. By the turn of the 20th century, it was a ruin.

The castle then wound its way through the hands of counts, a diocese and manufacturer before German aristocrats from the House of Hesseexternal link bought it. "Our family and our ancestors before us have well maintained the castle," Prince Philipp von Hessen said. "It returns today to Swiss hands and hopefully will remain there for the next century."

Artistic designs

Von Hessen said his family wanted to make the castle affordable for Not Vital because "we believe that with his unique human and artistic talents, he will give a new impetus to the castle. We are particularly pleased with the ideas that continue our traditions and keep it publicly accessible".

Art collectors around the world have bought the work of Not Vital, a veteran of the New York art scene who now divides his time living and working in Sent, Switzerland, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro.

The change in ownership caps two years of negotiations that also included a local foundation created to preserve the castle and maintain public access. Not Vital paid for the property with his own money and with bank loans through French bank CIC. Another foundation provided a CHF500,000 loan. A local entrepreneur, Jon Peer, board chairman of the historic High Alpine Institute Ftan, provided further financial assurances.

The town of Scuolexternal link agreed to provide CHF200,000 a year for upkeep while Not Vital turns the castle into an arts and cultural destination.

"It's a financial commitment from our town," Scuol’s mayor Christian Fanzun said. "The creation of a leading cultural attraction is an undeniable tourist attraction. The town and the region fully support the art project and our commitment and we are all happy that Not Vital has acquired the Castle of Tarasp."

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