The focus of photography in Switzerland is now firmly on Winterthur, with the opening of new headquarters for the Swiss Foundation of Photography.
Within its walls, the building will house future images of the country and its people, as well as nearly 30,000 pictures collected since 1971.
Winterthur’s photography museum has staged 60 exhibitions since it opened in 1993 and attracts some 30,000 visitors a year.
The Swiss Foundation of Photography was created in 1971 and until now has been based in Zurich’s fine arts museum.
Its archives contain about 30,000 original photographs capturing life in Switzerland.
The two institutions are in renovated former factory buildings and will “complement” each other, while retaining their respective identities.
Fragile cultural assets
The collection had previously been kept in Zurich’s fine arts museum.
The move means that Winterthur – just 20 minutes away – now has two major photographic institutions.
A Museum of Photography there has attracted some 30,000 visitors annually since it opened ten years ago.
Facing each other across the street, the two buildings will work side-by-side, with extensive space provided by the museum for exhibitions devoted to the foundation’s Swiss photographs.
The foundation, which like the museum is in a renovated former factory, has a specialised library and conference rooms, as well as storage space for the photographs.
At the opening ceremony, foundation director Peter Pfrunder described the move to Winterthur as “a radical renewal” for his organisation, which he said had a home of its own at last.
He pointed out that although photographs were increasingly collected by art museums, they amounted to only about one per cent of past and present photographic production.
Pfrunder was also enthusiastic about the conservation facilities.
“Photographs are fragile cultural assets,” he said. “The special conditions here will considerably prolong their life, with air-conditioning providing different temperatures for colour and for black-and-white.”
The bringing together of the two institutions was made possible with the help of a SFr10 million ($7.5 million) investment by Winterthur’s Volkart Foundation, which also financed the creation of the museum.
“We will retain our separate identities and independence but complement each other,” said Pfrunder. “Joint exhibitions are planned.”
For its opening, the new centre has mounted an exhibition which includes pictures taken by leading Swiss photo-journalists in the 1950s.
swissinfo, Ariane Gigon Bormann with agencies
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