23.05.1942 – 21.06.1942
Between Emotion and Construction: The 'Allianz' Association of Artists as Guests in the Kunsthaus
The ‘Allianz’ association of artists was hosted by the Kunsthaus in 1942 with 36 artists, mainly working in the media of painting, drawing and sculpture. It was a kind of project for a generation of artists around the age of forty. Only Le Corbusier, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and the already deceased Paul Klee were significantly older. In the judgment of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung: ‘It is not a cosy exhibition’, but the artistic terra incognita on display deserved the closest attention. Already in 1936, the Kunsthaus had presented about twenty of the shown positions in a group exhibition entitled ‘Zeitprobleme in der Schweizer Malerei und Plastik’ (Problems of the Times in Swiss Painting and Sculpture). The Allianz was created a year later by Leo Leuppi, Richard Paul Lohse and Hans Erni. With Erni and Lohse the tension between figuration and abstraction was already clear. It had to be tolerated from the first exhibition to the last (1938, Kunsthalle Basel or 1954, Helmhaus Zürich). The different opinions can also be allocated geographically, with the Surrealist poles of Lucerne and Basel (Hans Erni, Max von Moos, Walter Kurt Wiemken) and the Constructivist stronghold of Zürich (Richard Paul Lohse, Hans Hinterreiter). In keeping with the time, female artists found themselves in a small minority, but with Meret Oppenheim, Verena Loewensberg and Sophie Taeuber-Arp positions were included that are of great significance today. The exhibition was set up by the architect Ernst Friedrich Burckhardt ‘in close contact’ with Leo Leuppi and Max Bill. Bill – quite clearly the guiding spirit of the undertaking – distinguished in the accompanying text between two main tendencies: ‘One surrealistic, passively reacting to the times (…) and another constructive group, planning beyond the present.’ The way he obviously devalued the Surrealists may seem astonishing today, especially since he granted that they had turned the horrors of war into a theme close to their actual time. But Bill justified the joint progress of the two very different groups with a common attitude. Later, however, he expressed his view about which of them he considered superior: ‘The passively absorbing group (Surrealism) is opposed to Constructivism, the actively productive group. Mimesis – prototyping. The unsystematic – the system.’ It could hardly be clearer.
'The passively absorbing group (Surrealism) is opposed to Constructivism, the actively productive group. Mimesis – prototyping. The unsystematic – the system.'