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Swiss embassy gives young people spray cans and a voice

Graffiti art by the "Zurich sprayer" Harald Nägeli

(Keystone)

The Swiss embassy in London is preparing for the future - by asking young people what they would like to see. And it is getting things under way with a graffiti party.

This colourful means of expression may seem a surprising way for the supposedly staid Swiss to celebrate. But Switzerland does have a tradition of graffiti art, epitomised by the so-called "Zurich sprayer", Harald Nägeli.

Four graffiti artists have been busily transforming the garage under the embassy building in Montagu Place into an underground gallery of urban art in readiness for the party on Friday. It is the first in a series of events throughout 2001 entitled "Next Generation".

"This century will be shaped and determined largely by those who are between 15 and 30-years-old today," says the Swiss cultural attaché, Wolfgang Amadeus Brühart. "We want to find out what this generation thinks of the future, what its values and ideas are, and how it might influence future events," he told swissinfo.

The identities of the four graffiti artists, two of whom are Swiss and two British, are not being revealed.

"They say they have never seen so much empty wall space they could decorate legally," Brühart says. "We want to show that graffiti can be positive and legal. Perhaps we should offer more buildings to be sprayed."

Other events planned during this year's Next Generation programme include a "trendsetting sports and food event" on the streets of London, a fashion show in November and an event for young artists at the Swiss-designed Tate Modern gallery.

In May, two Swiss musicians - violinist Mirjam Tschopp and pianist Karl-Andreas Kolly - will display their talents after receiving the Ambassador's Award for 2001.

The Zug-based Landis and Gyr Cultural Foundation is also awarding places at its studios in East London to talented Swiss artists or Swiss-based foreigners in the fields of the visual arts, photography and cultural criticism.

"Switzerland has a huge diversity, and we would like to show a new side of Switzerland," Wolfgang Brühart says.

by Roy Probert


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