Located in the valley of the river Inn, amongst the remnants of a medieval monastery and set against the backdrop of alpine mountains, opened to the public on the 2nd January 2019 is MUZEUM SUSCH: a new addition to the matrix of experimentation and novel approaches to art in response to the enchanting surroundings of Engadin.
The former vicarage, the hospice and the economic building were parts of a rural monastery founded in 1157 after Flüela Pass, on the pilgrim’s path to Rome and Santiago de Compostela. A brewery building was added in the 19th century, situated above a naturally-occurring mountain water source. To house MUZEUM SUSCH, the existing structures are subtly restored and recombined in a complex form, an inspiring environment for artistic production and mediation, a diverse ensemble encouraging exploratory journeys for visitors and introducing spaces for exhibitions and experimental presentations, performances and lectures as well as a residency programme.
MUZEUM SUSCH is a space for argument and research relying on the laboratory character of a Kunsthalle. Founded by Grażyna Kulczyk, the Polish entrepreneur and long-term supporter of contemporary art, it is specifically (but not exclusively) informed by a deep understanding of woman artists and seeks an emotional connection to art as a matrilineage of the sometimes omitted, overlooked or misread. It aims to contribute to the recognition and greater visibility of artists and artworks which resonate these concerns, which have informed a collection focussed on conceptual art and female artists with a natural input of Central Eastern European art that is still underrepresented in reunited Europe. Thus one of the central qualities of MUZEUM SUSCH and its activities is the redefinition of the canonical and the marginalized, not as a dominating force silencing others but as an influential voice for making other voices heard.
Permanent site-specific Installations
Being simultaneously a site of contemplation, research and intervention, MUZEUM SUSCH is defined by a series of permanent, site-specific installations by international contemporary artists, which engage with the architecture and the idiosyncratic structure. Each built-in artwork plays a part in shaping the evolving character and distinctive layout of the space, inviting a unique sense of choreography with temporary works on display which will occupy the majority of the building space.
One of the first site-specific installations to arrive at MUZEUM SUSCH was Monika Sosnowska’s ‘Stairs’ (2017), a 14m steel structure that sits like the spinal column in the former ice tower of the brewery.
An Alpine Monastery
The reading and perception of the place is ambiguous: both religious – monastic and naturally historic. Swiss architects, Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy, have been commissioned to restore and expand these existing structures according to the individual vision of the principal. The whole project balances sympathy to the history of the building, establishing space for a contemporary art museum within this context while introducing minimal architectural interventions. Taking the monastery as a place for production and to allow for reflection is at the DNA of the project. The natural history of the place can be read everywhere and penetrates the architecture in many places, as part of it.
“A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women” – the inaugural exhibition at Muzeum Susch, a new institution founded by Grażyna Kulczyk – takes as its point of departure one of her collection’s key strengths, its focus on women artists, to explore the notion of the feminine in its diverse facets: social, political and cultural.
From artistic conventions of female representation through sexual emancipation to the questioning of traditional gender roles, the show addresses many issues central to feminist theory. Yet, rather than reiterating established polemics, it seeks to offer a fresh perspective on the paradoxes of the feminine. In the works on display, the female gaze predominates; the body is a source of pleasure rather than an ideological battlefield; motherhood and domesticity are marked not just by tenderness but also by tension.
Borrowing its title from Siri Hustvedt’s eponymous 2012 essay, which analyses the perceptual biases that affect how we judge both art and the wider world, the show celebrates pioneering women artists, who have only recently attained their long-deserved places in the art-historical canon. More importantly, however, it tells the story of those who, regardless of gender, found the passion, creativity and courage to challenge not only social norms but also the limits of art and its restrictive categories. As Hustvedt herself wrote: “A work of art has no sex.” A fearless commitment to experimentation and to pushing the boundaries of art lies at the very core of this exhibition.