Dear readers,

Pierre Helg

Magazine issue: 


Dear readers,

The issue of the magazine you hold in your hands is quite an unusual one. It is devoted to artists whose lives, art or posthumous fame have somehow come in touch with the cultures of two nations, which, at first glance, appear hard to compare in respect of either the size of their territories or population, or their way of thinking. I believe that even the artistic tastes of the Russians and the Swiss, both in the past and in the present, have more differences than similarities. In view of that one cannot help marvelling at the fact that over the centuries we have been witnessing a con­stant need for dialogue with one another, including a dialogue in the arts.

The year 2014 will see the bicentenary of the establish­ment of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Russia. During that time we have exchanged many am­bassadors and consuls, but the exchange of "envoys of culture" began much earlier. As early as the end of the 15th century Russia invited Pietro Antonio Solari, a native of Carona, a municipality in the canton of Ticino. Since then Swiss men and women who visit Red Square for the first time in their life can never help wondering why it is that the Kremlin's serrated walls look so similar to the red brick forts in south-eastern Switzerland. In St. Petersburg , too, Ticino natives left their mark, with Domenico Trezzini the first chief architect of the Northern capital.

Swiss historians of architecture come to the city upon the Neva to familiarize them­selves with the oeuvre of their illustrious fellow countryman, while Russian art scholars need to visit Ascona, a municipality in Switzerland, in order to enjoy paintings of Tula native Marianne von Werefkin. True, her compositions have travelled to Russia twice already: 1997 and 2010 saw big solo shows of Werefkin. And Alberto Giacometti, by all accounts, never visited Russia, but when, in 2008, his "Walking Man" walked all the way to Moscow and St. Petersburg, it enjoyed crowds of viewers who came to see it. Equally popular was "Letatlin", who flew all the way to Basel, which, in 2012, hosted an exhibition of the Russian avant-garde artist Vladimir Tatlin, which was very warmly re­ceived. In today's high-tech age the old tradition of inviting Swiss architects for projects in Russia is still alive: the Herzog & de Meuron architectural bureau has been engaged in the development of the concept for Skolkovo University.

One of the pioneers of 20th-century art, the Russian artist Marianne von Werefkin was a muse for the expressionist artists from "Der Blaue Reiter" (The Blue Rider) group, whose members included Paul Klee. Another female artist regarded as a muse of the surrealists was Meret Oppenheim from Switzerland. This year in October we shall celebrate the cen­tenary of her birth. Meret Oppenheim can be called a symbol of the art of the past 100 years. Her biography has little, if any, connection with Russia, and yet the "Swiss" issue of the magazine with the very Russian name "Tretyakov Gallery" opens with an article about Meret Oppenheim. This makes me believe that the looked-for "point of conver­gence" lies in the hearts of Russian art aficionados. And I am greatly honoured by the op­portunity to welcome them here on the pages of the "Tretyakov Gallery" magazine.

Pierre Helg
Ambassador of Switzerland to the Russian Federation




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