Yes, it is one of his famous reclining figures, this one dated 1973. Henri Moore was an English artist known for his large outdoor sculptures which, like the one opposite the Art and History Museum, were often abstract depictions of female forms.
This is just one of the wonderful works of art that one can find on walks around Geneva.
Further up the street and down a short flight of steps in the old town is “Column” (1966) by Max Bill, a Swiss artist. Bill was a student of the famous Bauhaus school in Germany and was an influential graphic artist, sculptor and architect. His work, as in “Column”, was characterized by clear geometric forms.
At the tram stop
Who is the man sitting on the bench smoking a cigar and waiting for the tram at the Rond Point de Plainpalais, so life-like that one forgets he is made of bronze? He is one of four sculptures at the tram stop by Gérald Ducimetière who modeled his sculptures on real Geneva residents. His “L’Homme au Cigare (Alter Ego)” (the man with the cigar-alter ego) dates from 1982. There is also a lady looking for change in her purse just opposite, a man waiting for a taxi and a young woman striding with determination along the sidewalk. The man waiting for the taxi was modeled on Michel Butor, the well-known author and University of Geneva professor.
High above the street
Did you notice the eyes watching you from the top of a building on the north side of Plainpalais? They are part of a series of nine works by Swiss and international artists high above the city, “Les Neons”, installed between 2006 and 2012. The “eyes” are the work of Sisley Xhafa, an Albanian artist.
On the opposite side of Plainpalais, on the top of another building on which is written the strangely self-evident “L’ODRRE N’A PAS D’IPMROTNCAE” (the order is not important), the work is by Ann Veronica Janssens, a Belgian artist. The neon signs are a public art project financed by the Funds for Contemporary Art of the City and the Canton of Geneva. The artists’ messages are in reaction to the commercial advertisements on roofs around the lakeside. A pertinent one reads “DIMANCHE” (Sunday) – the only non-shopping day of the week!
At the university
At the Salève end of Plainpalais in front of the university building, Uni Mail, is a sculpture by Bernar Venet , a French conceptual artist who has exhibited his works in various locations around the world. Venet showed his “Arcs” series most famously in the gardens of Versailles in the summer of 2011, where the contrast between the huge minimalist bronze sculptures and the opulent surroundings was intriguing.
The bird’s nest
Nearby is one of the newest and most modern structures in Geneva – a work of art in itself, the Rolex bridge over the Arve River between the Plainpalais and Vernets neighbourhoods. This bridge was financed by the Rolex Foundation which has its headquarters close by and was opened for traffic in August 2012. The unusual design of the bridge, described as a “bird’s nest” because of its interwoven girders, was conceived by Geneva architects Brodbeck & Roulet.
By now you must realize that Geneva is an open air museum and if you pay attention you are in for some nice discoveries.
A fascinating work to which you have to raise your eyes at the Place du Rhône is the “OUI/NON” by the Swiss artist Markus Raetz. It was given to the city in 2000 by the Barbour Foundation. The OUI/NON is an anamorphose, which, according to Wikipedia, is “a distorted projection or perspective requiring the viewer to occupy a specific vantage point to reconstitute the image”. You can read it as OUI or as NON according to how it moves and where you are standing. Markus Raetz is interested in showing through his works how your perception of reality can change despite your most basic convictions.
Girl on a swing
Another piece of art you have to look up to is off the Place du Marché in Carouge. High up on the side of a building someone has painted a girl on a swing, a lovely piece of “street art”. There is a feeling of freedom and lightness in the girl swinging above the city in the blue sky.
National hero on horseback
Back in town, no one can miss the equestrian statue of General Dufour at the center of Place Neuve in front of the opera house. General Guillaume-Henri Dufour (1787-1875) was a national hero who led the Swiss forces to victory in 1847 against the Sonderbund, the alliance of Catholic cantons that wished to secede from the rest of the country. Dufour was also one of the founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and was president during its first year of activity in 1864. The statue was erected in his honour in 1884.
And to end our walkabout, a little gem in Park Bertrand in the Champel neighbourhood is the statue of two children stopping at play called “Les Petites Amies” (little friends) (1956) by Ursula Malbine, a German sculptor who lives in Geneva. Malbine has an atelier in Troinex and when you pass by her house you can see a courtyard filled with her sculptures.
This walk has taken us through the rive gauche or the left side of the Rhone River and the city. There is still the whole rive droite or right side to discover. Is anyone else tempted to continue the adventure?
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.