The strongest piece at Katharina Fritsch’s show at the Kunsthaus Zurich is a figure of the Virgin Mary that has been painted black; it stands at about life-size, positioned before a silkscreen print depicting a wall of ivy leaves. There are a lot of Madonnas in the show—hundreds of smaller ones have been painted bright yellow and stacked in a cylindrical tower. You know when a Fritsch works: It really pops into real life, as its bright colors and scale engender a feeling of enormity, and irony. In this particular work the perversity of the blackened Madonna, which hasn’t been erased but somehow made anonymous and somehow renewed, stands in striking correspondence to the wall of flat, brightly colored leaves.
The installation was clearly inspired by the home of Maja Hoffman, the Zurich-based collector and patron of the Kunsthalle Zurich and the New Museum in New York, among other institutions. She opened her private collection to the public as part of Zurich’s Contemporary Art Weekend, ostensibly an excuse for collectors to stop and see the city’s blue-chip art scene en route to Basel. (Incidentally, the event’s organizers didn’t pay as much attention to the city’s vibrant young artists via studio visits or the galleries, Bolte Lang and Karma International among them. A strange decision on their part, though those particular galleries were both already in Basel preparing for Liste and Art Statements, respectively.) MAJA HOFFMAN AND BEATRIX RUF. PHOTO BY MARY BARONE
At the center of Hoffmann’s Marcel Breuer-designed home lies a vitrine-like courtyard that houses the Fritsch Madonna, in a real bed of ivy leaves. Hoffmann’s home is not her vacation place. She’ a real resident of Zurich (although she’s rumored to move to London), and as much as you can say any home with a 20-foot-long De Kooning sculpture in the backyard is “livable”, this one is it: The family dines on a Jean Prouvé table; they’re careful not to crash into the Polke, or a recent Peter Doig. Of particular note was the site-specific John Baldessari, with a thin layer of flourescent yellow paint on the wall, covered in part by an over-sized sculptural ear, which was in restoration last year during last year’s fete. And then there’s the view: like a true collector, elevated many meters above Zurich (although she’s got a private driveway; The Rubells, Alexander Schroeder of Galerie Neu, and Javier Peres accessed by a set of steep, tucked-away stairs) she’s got eyes on the entirety of Lake Geneva under her watch.