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Switzerland has a thriving and diverse arts scene. The different cultures within Switzerland are strongly influenced by the cultures of its neighbours France, Germany and Italy.
Two institutions are responsible for shaping and managing Swiss culture policy. The first is the Federal Office of Cultural Affairs (FOC), which is the Swiss government’s centre of expertise for all cultural policy matters, for cultural promotion and for the preservation and dissemination of cultural values. The second is Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, which promotes cultural creativity and fosters cultural exchanges. The FOC, Pro Helvetia and the FDFA share responsibility for the overseas promotion of Swiss culture.
Architecture and design
Architecture and design have a rich tradition in Switzerland. It was the birthplace of one of the most renowned and influential architects of the 20th century: Le Corbusier. Swiss architects are much sought-after abroad, in particular Mario Botta, Diener & Diener, and Herzog & de Meuron who designed the National Stadium (Bird’s Nest) for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Examples of architecturally acclaimed buildings in Switzerland include the Thermal Baths in Vals designed by Peter Zumthor, and the Kirchner Museum in Davos by Annette Gigon and Mike Guyer.
Painting and sculpture
Well-known Swiss artists of the 19th and the early 20th centuries include Albert Anker, Ferdinand Hodler and Arnold Böcklin. Some of the important figures in 20th century art were born or grew up in Switzerland, such as Paul Klee, Alberto Giacometti famous for his sculptures of elongated figures, and Jean Tinguely with his kinetic machine sculptures. A number of art movements can also trace their roots back to Switzerland. In the early 20th century Zurich was the birthplace of the Dada movement, which paved the way for surrealism. In the 1950s "Concrete Art" was developed and popularised by Swiss designer and architect Max Bill. Modern art is currently undergoing a resurgence in popularity thanks, in no small part, to internationally renowned artists like Pipilotti Rist and Thomas Hirschhorn.
Since the early 18th century, the works of Swiss writers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jeremias Gotthelf, Gottfried Keller and Johanna Spyri the creator of “Heidi”, have been appreciated by readers the world over. In the 20th century, authors Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt emerged from German-speaking Switzerland. The best-known authors from French-speaking Switzerland include Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, Blaise Cendrars, Maurice Chappaz and Jacques Chessex. Italian-speaking Switzerland also produced writers of note, such as Francesco Chiesa and Piero Bianconi.
Museums and art foundations
Switzerland has over 900 national, regional and local museums. There are also a host of museums and galleries which were founded by generous private art collectors, such as the Fondation Beyeler in Basle, the Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne and the Fondation Gianadda in Martigny. Some of the most popular museums include the Tinguely Museum in Basle, the Musée de l’art brut (outsider art) in Lausanne and the National Transport Museum in Lucerne.
Switzerland also has a long and rich theatre tradition. Towards the end of the 19th century, popular theatre went through a major revival. Many of the plays staged over 100 years ago, such as Friedrich Schiller’s William Tell, still delight theatre-goers today. Although the major theatres of Zurich, Basle, Berne and Geneva enjoy particular acclaim, the independent theatre scene in Switzerland has flourished since the 1960s. Many theatre festivals have also become a popular fixture on Switzerland’s summer events’ calendar: the Theaterspektakel in Zurich, the Belluard Festival in Fribourg and the Festival de la Bâtie in Geneva, to name but a few.
Switzerland is a country of music lovers, a fact which is reflected in the many festivals and concerts which are held here throughout the year. The Montreux Jazz Festival attracts the A list of the music world. Other pop and rock festivals include the Paléo festival in Nyon and the open-air festivals in the Swiss-German towns of Gurten, Gampel, Frauenfeld and St. Gallen. And of course, there is the historic Lucerne Festival and Murten Classics for classical music fans.
Swiss film industry
Switzerland does not have a large film industry, and, like other small European countries, is heavily dependent on state support. Perhaps the greatest of Switzerland’s cinema exports is the six-time Oscar-winning producer Arthur Cohen. More recently, Marc Foster, who directed the Bond film “Quantum of Solace”, has taken the 21st century film world by storm. Switzerland also hosts a number of annual film festivals (Locarno, Nyon and Zurich).