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Camouflage exhibition avoids low profile

A camouflaged museum in the shadow of the gothic cathedral (swissinfo/SRI)

The exterior of a Lausanne art museum has itself been transformed into a work of art, thanks to an unlikely source of creativity - the Swiss army.

It was a courageous move by curator Chantal Prod’Horn to choose camouflage as the theme for the latest exhibition at Lausanne’s museum of decorative arts. After all, the very word conjures up images of anonymity and even invisibility.

So to raise the profile of the exhibition – and therefore attract more public attention – Prod’Horn contacted the Swiss army and asked if they would camouflage the building. “To my surprise they immediately agreed,” she told swissinfo. “Apparently they’d never done anything like that before and thought it was a great idea.

“It was also important that like artists they should actually hang the fabric themselves, because they have the know-how.”

The city of Lausanne gave its permission on condition that no harm was done to the museum’s historic building, and the result is a work of pleasing originality.

Two fears

Prod’Horn’s two fears proved to be unfounded. The first was that the camouflage would give the museum a “bunker-like” appearance; the second was that the “wrapped” building might look like an imitation of the style of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who in 1995 created a sensation by draping fabric around the Reichstag in Berlin.

To avoid accusations of imitation, it was decided not to cover the entire museum – and thus not to change its shape. And somehow the elegant old building, which faces Lausanne’s gothic cathedral, shows no signs of resembling a bunker.

Although it is based on a subject with military connotations, the exhibition has little else to do with the armed forces. Different patterns of army camouflage are in abundant evidence, but in the form of a fashion accessory with emphasis on the aesthetic rather than the military.

In another section, pictures show how animals and insects can teach humans a thing or two about faking invisibility. There are also photographs revealing how – for example – the skilful use of mirror-like fencing can make an otherwise-ugly factory blend in with its surrounding countryside.

The exhibition, which features works by over 60 artists, ends on May 19.

by Richard Dawson

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR