First large Jubilee exhibition dedicated to Dada that took place in the former important Dada Centre, namely Zurich and Paris. Most of the founding members of Dada were still living at the time, and so Hans Richter vividly remembers in the exhibition catalogue as follows: “No question: 50 years ago, we were about to change the world in Zurich . . . Anti-art instead of art, a new form of community instead of petty bourgeois. We wanted to contribute with our art to this unstoppable new way of thinking, feeling, living.”
Although it was born in Zurich on February 5, 1916, Dada did not receive its first proper acknowledgement from an institution until its 50th birthday. Since then, a whole series of exhibitions has been devoted to this movement in the Kunsthaus Zürich, it has been given its own exhibition space in the new Chipperfield Building, all the relevant holdings have been digitalized and an especially designed website has been created. Considerable focused acquisition activities have led to the Dada holdings becoming among the most significant internationally, alongside those of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Further information about the history of Dada at the Kunsthaus Zürich, with participants like Felix Baumann, Hans Bolliger, Guido Magnaguagno and Juri Steiner, can be found on the special Dada website compiled by the Dada expert Raimund Meyer. Here we are focusing especially on its reception by the media and the public. This first major Dada exhibition was created in cooperation with the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris and was developed under the aegis of Felix Baumann and Michel Sanouillet. In 1965 the latter had founded the “Association pour l’Étude du Mouvement Dada” with the aim of divesting Dada of its shady reputation. “Yes, that exists today: an association to study the Dada movement. Who would have imagined that fifty years ago when this bogey of the middle classes had its origins in Zurich and shocked the good citizens with its abstruse events?” asked the prestigious art historian Margit Staber in the “Schwäbische Donauzeitung” on 19.10.1966. A particularly curious note could be found in the “Zürcher Woche” of 21.10.1966, reading: “Hans Richter, original Dadaist, who had to break off his speech prematurely at the exhibition opening, wished for the still living Dada artists to drink a glass of whisky in the original Dada pub “Meierei” at a follow-up get-together. (Richter: ‘For sentimental reasons’). The waiter responded, ‘But you’ll have to pay for that yourself.’ The Zurich Kunsthaus was only providing beer and wine for the artists. Richter paid.” The international press showed great interest in the exhibition, but mainly praised it for bringing order and analytical clarity into the alleged chaos. The “shock” delivered by the Dadaists to the art scene had clearly not been forgotten and led to such comments as: “one can probably write about Dada only with deep sympathy or with deep rejection” (Reinhardt Stumm). The impressive exhibition of 465 items represented yet another turning point for Dada: it was the green light that started one of the first institutional collection activities in this field anywhere in Europe.
“Dada was without question one of the most important art movement in the first half of the 20th century, and that coins at least until now the ongoing art production. Dada stands as equally serious pioneer as the lyrical-expressionist abstraction and as the constructivist art.”Margit Staber, in: «Forum der Kritik», aired on October 14, 1966