The compulsion to isolation — Does the art world survive a lockdown?

Switzerland is in a state of emergency. And she’s not alone. Countries around the world are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Trend still rising slightly despite flattening. Some four weeks have now passed since the Federal Council imposed the extraordinary situation. Nobody expected it. Who would have thought that we would ever be in such a situation?

Under the hashtag #stayathome, there are a number of movements and calls on social media to stay at home and save lives. Artists and smaller institutions seem to have been particularly affected. Some are already fighting for their existence.

We asked how our artists and cooperation partners are doing.

Tim Hergersberg, like many artists, works in a so-called “bread job”. But there is no work going on at the moment either. He still gets a little reward. The Zurich native uses the time that has become available to move his studio. “If the lockdown lasts longer, I can work there in peace,” he says. A planned exhibition with Luca Harlacher and Michael Reinhold had to be postponed indefinitely. Hergersberg regrets this, but is grateful for his overall situation.

In the middle of Tim Hergersberg’s studio move.

Financial evasion

Not much has changed for the artist Aramis Navarro. Since the living and working situation is the same, the Rapperswiler can still work at home. Because there is also his studio at the same time. He can deliver his materials as usual. “My natural habitat has always been a quarantine,” says Navarro. Because these prerequisites are perfect for isolating oneanother. Unfortunately, a total of three exhibitions were cancelled, of which he would have been part. For one of them he should have been allowed to travel to Singapore. However, this could still be postponed until the summer of 2021. He would love that. For a temporary income, the Rapperswiler began producing screen print series, which he offered online in small editions for sale. In doing so, he is involved in shaping the home of the population. Because never has so much time been spent at home as now. One reason to make yourself really comfortable.

Aramis Navarro shows his enthusiasm for the consequences of isolation.

Janet Mueller has been in isolation for a little longer. The artist from Zurich showed flu symptoms even before the lockdown and stayed at home. Actually, she would have just moved to a new studio. What a pity! Now she is willing to compromise on small-format drawings with what she has at home. The 3.5-room apartment shared with her boyfriend looks smaller as well. Walls, floors and the balcony are used as a work surface depending on the mood and weather.

Janet Mueller is working fast. During their isolation, almost 100 works were created. They are faces as they like to draw them. In order to maintain her connection to the outside world, she started a small project on Instagram. She posts one of these faces every day and offers the opportunity for an exchange: “I send the original and if you feel like it, you can answer me, whether in writing or creatively,” she says.

Janet Mueller is particularly creative at the moment.

Struggle for existence

Dominik Ruegg – also known as Drüegg – started another project together with other Swiss artists. In the newly founded online shop supportyourlocalartist.ch, they jointly offer shirts, prints, postcards, posters, books and stickers. A small source of income at this time of crisis. He himself is currently working from home. It would be possible to work in his studio in the Haus zur Ant in St.Gallen, but since his partner also works in the home office, he does. The smallest social contact seems to be worth a lot at the moment. He still has assignments and his part-time job at the St.Gallen Cultural Office is currently benefiting him. His showroom, the house to the ant, had to close the door temporarily. Two exhibitions cannot therefore be held. “However, we hope to be able to make up for them,” says Rüegg.

Artist Dominik Rüegg from St. Gallen.

The TART in Zurich is doing the same. The exhibition space of Catrina Sonderegger and Valentina De Pasquale was also a victim of the Federal Council’s measures. The exhibition Untitled II with Janet Mueller had to be interrupted shortly after opening. In order to still provide their community with substance, they are moving into the digital world. On their website and social media channels, they post artists working in the isolation they received via appeal. Unfortunately, this does not replace an exhibition operation.

“Unfortunately, we are fighting for our existence”

Catrina Sonderegger from the exhibition space TART.

They are not alone. In exchange with other galleries and institutions in the Zurich area, the managing director of TART encounters similar scenarios. There is a great deal of uncertainty as to how things will go. “Even after the flattening of this crisis, it will probably take a while for the art market to return to normal,” says Sonderegger. This is also where a chain reaction arises, as it appears in other industries.

New models are therefore in demand. As was also discussed in the cooperation between Network of Arts and TART last September, art will be taught in a new form in the future. This crisis seems to force the art world to rethink its strategies. Perhaps this is the start in a new direction and the end of old thought patterns.