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Zurich voters to decide future of Kunsthaus

The Kunsthaus is in urgent need of renovation Keystone

The fine arts museum in Zurich - the Kunsthaus - says its reputation as a leading art institution will only survive if the local voters approve the financing of urgently-needed renovation work.

Over SFr50 million is needed to modernise the technical infrastructure of the museum, which has been extended three times since it opened in 1910, but never totally renovated. Some SFr25 million in credits has been pledged by canton Zurich and sponsors, but only on condition that the city authorities make up the balance.

The museum authorities say the building urgently needs upgraded air-conditioning, wiring and artificial lighting, as well as roof repairs, especially in parts of the museum dating back to 1910 and the 1925 extension.

The head of communications at the Kunsthaus, Björn Quellenberg, believes that, if the renovation work does not go ahead, the museum will lose out to the many other cultural institutions which have opened in the past decade.

“People expect certain standards from the building,” he said. “It is extremely important that the Kunsthaus catches up in terms of modern infrastructure and exhibition conditions.”

An equally serious problem is that the Kunsthaus might have difficulty attracting art from potential donors, if they think the poor infrastructure might compromise the maintenance and safety of the works being exhibited. At present, hourly checks are made on such factors as humidity.

If the credit is approved in the September vote, renovation work will begin in 2001. It is expected to take several years.

by Richard Dawson

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