120 years and still going strong
This is the story of a small museum that turned into something big – without recruiting a star architect to give it a makeover, or experiencing exponential growth. Quite simply a space that, for the last three years, has been home to outstanding works of art that have enriched its collections. The Musée Jenisch Vevey has grown from the inside out, adding more than 6,000 items to its holdings since 2014. It has been galvanised in the process. Continuously changing and developing, one of Switzerland’s oldest art museums has no sense that it is ageing. This year, it proudly celebrates its 120th birthday.
It continues its progress in 2017, with the cantonal prints collection taking centre stage in a new permanent exhibition space at the heart of the museum; and, in autumn, a celebration marking the public opening of an entirely new garden designed by the landscape architect Augusto Calonder, thanks to the generosity of the museum’s Friends.
Focusing mainly on prints and drawings and centred around the museum’s own collections, the exhibition programme spans both contemporary creativity and art from centuries past. In spring, a presentation devoted to the Swiss art scene in the 1990s showcases the story of the M/2 collective and its art space in Vevey, in tandem with the fascinating drawings of Stéphan Landry. In summer, Dizzying Colour looks at lithography and the breadth of its chromatic potential, with masterpieces from a major private collection complementing treasures from the museum. Autumn turns the spotlight back on prints, with the monumental woodcuts of Franz Gertsch in an exhibition designed by Rainer Michael Mason.
So 2017 is shaping up to be another exciting year for the Jenisch. We look forward to welcoming you, and sharing with you the world’s beauty in all its forms.
Julie Enckell Julliard
Director of the Musée Jenisch Vevey
A museum for works on paper
Prints and drawings account for more than 95% of the collections
The second-largest art museum in the canton of Vaud, the Musée Jenisch Vevey has over the years acquired major collections of works on paper – prints and drawings from every period – which today account for more than 95% of its holdings. Specifically, there are 9'500 drawings, 35,000 prints and 1,300 paintings.
In 1968, the René de Cérenville bequest brought more than 150 early drawings to the museum, including a number of rare works by celebrated Italian artists of the Renaissance. Some two decades later the Cabinet cantonal des estampes – the cantonal prints collection – moved to Vevey, along with the Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, the prints from the collection of Professor Decker, and the collections of the Canton of Vaud (formerly held at the Musée de l'Elysée). These were soon joined by the print collections of the Town of Vevey, the Association du Musée Alexis Forel, the Fondation Pierre Aubert and the Fondation Planque, bringing the current total to more than 35,000 items. Some years earlier, the Fondation Oskar Kokoschka deposited its holdings at Vevey, including almost 1,200 prints and several hundred drawings by the Austrian artist. In 2007, a collector left to the museum an ensemble of 400 18th-century French and Italian drawings. Finally, in 2014, Rudolf Schindler donated 632 drawings by Ferdinand Hodler.
Fostering an appreciation of prints and drawings
The institution’s strategy is to complement the other museums in the canton. While the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne stages major retrospectives of painting, video art and large-scale installations, the Musée Jenisch aims to enhance appreciation of works on paper through its collections. The temporary and semi-permanent exhibitions are thus devoted primarily to prints and drawings. On the first floor, the principal gallery forming the “heart” of the display exhibits the various holdings of prints, while the two small galleries in the “Montreux” wing present drawings. The exhibition policy also aims to showcase this important heritage. Divided into three seasons, it comprises a spring presentation devoted to young, mid-career artists, a summer exhibition of international scope, and a focused reading or re-reading of an important topic in art history during autumn. An exhibition devoted to prints is staged at least once a year. The other presentations feature drawings or contemporary paper objects in the broader sense. For the most part, their starting point is the collections. Publications are shared equally between printing and drawing: the museum and the cantonal prints collection have already produced catalogues raisonnés and collection catalogues, reference monographs and works on particular topics.
The cantonal prints collection at the Musée Jenisch Vevey
Created at the Musée Jenisch Vevey in 1987 and inaugurated on 11 April 1989, the Cabinet cantonal des estampes – the cantonal prints collection – comprises both public and private collections that were assembled in the region and/or have a particular link to local art history. It is the successor to an earlier collection housed at the Musée de l’Elysée between 1979 and 1983 which itself included a number of holdings now deposited at Vevey (the Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, the print holdings of Professor Decker and the prints collection of the Canton of Vaud).
Housed on the ground floor of the Musée Jenisch until 2009, the cantonal prints collection now extends to three different areas of the building. At least one temporary exhibition devoted to it is held each year in the ground-floor galleries, presenting research projects that examine in depth a particular theme or the work of an artist and reflect the three different aspects of the museum’s exhibition policy. The programme is drawn up in close collaboration with the museum’s directors. Where resources permit, the temporary exhibitions are generally accompanied by a publication. They centre on one of the holdings and may be complemented by exhibits on loan from elsewhere.
The cantonal prints collection is also presented through the collections in the dedicated gallery on the first floor: the “heart” of the building. Held three times a year, these displays comprise a selection from the various holdings, with a differing emphasis (contemporary/earlier art, thematic/monograph/selection, etc.). They foreground a particular collection of works in response to current developments concerning one of the depositors. The programme is drawn up annually, and the foundations’ curators may be involved in choosing all or part of the content.
Finally, the collection has a viewing room in the form of the Salle Leenaards. Housing the specialist library, it welcomes researchers and other interested readers alike and is also a place to study works as part of research and documentation projects.
The collection’s mission is to bring the resources of the printed medium to the widest possible audience, from connoisseurs to beginners, fulfilling its educational purpose through the holdings it conserves. It plays a full part in the identity and project of the Musée Jenisch Vevey, which is to be a centre of competence for works on paper.
The Musée Jenisch: a venue and a conservation team to match the collections
The Jenisch is a medium-sized museum with resources devoted to the conservation and storage of works on paper. Its spaces, furnishings, equipment and conservation workshop are aligned with this mission. They meet ICOM standards for relative humidity and temperature stability as well as security. The Salle Leenaards serves as a place to study works and conduct research. A team of specialists in packaging, framing, restoration, cataloguing and researching works of this kind have been recruited and trained accordingly, and are regularly offered continuing education in order to hone their skills.
CROP: the centre for research into works on paper
In 2013, the Musée Jenisch Vevey received a substantial subsidy from the Federal Office of Culture to assist with the digitisation of its holdings of works on paper. Its positioning as a centre for research in the field has thus received federal recognition and enabled the creation of a workshop which, ultimately, will permit the various prints and drawings collections to be consulted online. The project has two aims: to publicise and share the museum’s holdings with a wide audience, and to create a virtual resource that will considerably reduce the need to handle the works themselves.
A targeted acquisition policy
To enhance the complementarity of the various collections based in the canton of Vaud, the Musée Jenisch pursues an acquisition policy that aims to fill gaps and enrich various holdings of prints and drawings, and to reflect new artistic developments in those media. The municipal budget allocation for acquisitions is not sufficient to fund the purchase of outstanding paintings of international importance or very large contemporary pieces, but it does allow the museum to acquire the best works from the fields of printmaking and design.
A programme attuned to the needs of visitors
The museum’s cultural education programme reflects its principal orientation and aims to enhance appreciation of prints and drawings. This strategy has a particular relevance in an increasingly digital world. The programme for various audiences including primary, secondary and specialist schools thus aims to showcase the possibilities of paper and the techniques of engraving and drawing.
Complementarity and specialisation
In a cultural landscape marked by overabundance and the ineluctable growth of institutions and projects, it is frequently difficult to secure the funding necessary to realise ambitions – a situation that often leads to competition or rivalry. By pursuing a different approach focused on a specialised niche, the Musée Jenisch aims instead to complement the offerings of other museums while cultivating a strong and recognisable identity. Its goal is to grow from within rather than from without, to enhance its conservation, research and exhibition expertise, and to enlarge its collections in a targeted manner: in short, to become an indispensable Swiss centre of competence for works on paper. Often confined to smaller or less important spaces, these are not perceived as works of prime importance. The Jenisch is committed to granting works on paper an exhibition space without making distinctions. Its ambition is to become Switzerland’s leading museum exclusively devoted to the study and appreciation of prints and drawings.
Julie Enckell Julliard, Director of the Musée Jenisch Vevey
in association with Laurence Schmidlin, curator of the Cabinet cantonal des estampes and Deputy Director of the Musée Jenisch Vevey