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Art with a view to the south

Ticino’s biggest city has long been renowned for its parks, flower gardens and villas. Over the past few years, however, it has also gained a reputation for its cultural offering. Located between Zurich and Milan, Lugano today combines scenic beauty with an extensive range of cultural activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether your interest lies in nature, history, art or sociology, the region’s 36 museums are sure to delight and enthral any culture fan with a wide-ranging programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year.

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Where the ruins of the lavish Grand Palace Hotel once stood, a visionary building for art and culture was built that regularly attracts the biggest names in the international art scene to the south of Switzerland. LAC – these three letters stand for Lugano Arte e Cultura and also symbolise its location in the immediate vicinity of Lake Lugano. The modern cultural centre provides space and premises for a comprehensive programme of exhibitions, concert series, theatre and dance performances, and cultural initiatives as well as activities for young people and families. A 1,000-seater concert hall completely covered with wooden panelling and equipped with a mobile acoustic shell offers the perfect setting for theatre performances and concerts. It is the main location for the LuganoInScena and LuganoMusica programmes, which include performances by the Compagnia Finzi Pasca and Orchestra della Svizzera italiana. Several concerts of Radiotelevisione Svizzera di lingua Italiana are also hosted there.

The LAC is also home to the Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana (MASI), which was created from the merger between the Museo Cantonale d’Arte and the Museo d’Arte della Città di Lugano. Across the venue’s three floors, visitors can enjoy a permanent exhibition as well as various temporary exhibitions and site-specific installations. The works held in the new structure include those of the Palazzo Reali on via Canova, which was previously the main address of the Museo Cantonale d’Arte. The programme of the MASI at LAC is primarily devoted to exhibitions that provide a platform for visitors to study and gain a deeper insight into modern and contemporary art, while the works of the Palazzo Reali date from the 15th century to the first half of the 20th century, with a particular focus on the region itself.

The exhibition hall of the MASI-run Collezione Giancarlo e Danna Olgiati houses and presents works from the collection that are among the most important pieces of Italian art produced between the beginning of the 20th century and the present day. It also showcases some of the most significant pieces from the Nouveau Réalisme movement and the area of international contemporary art and hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. The Balla ’12 Dorazio ’60. Dove la luce exhibition (running until 14 January 2024) tells the story of the extraordinary elective affinity between two masters of the Italian 20th century: the futurist Giacomo Balla and the abstractionist Piero Dorazio. The famous Swiss architect Mario Botta is responsible for the exhibition’s design.

In the historic Villa Malpensata located on the banks of Lake Lugano, the Museo delle Culture (MUSEC) devotes its exhibition programme to a variety of areas ranging from ethnic and oriental art to modern and contemporary art and children’s creativity. One of the highlights of the current programme is the Luca Pignatelli. Abstract exhibition, which will run until 12 May 2024 with around 50 masterpieces created by the Milanese artist. Villa Heleneum in Castagnola on the shores of Lake Lugano is located in the middle of a dreamy art nouveau park with Mediterranean vegetation. In 2021, the neoclassical building passed into the hands of the Swiss luxury brand Bally, which established the Bally Foundation following a careful renovation. The company, whose shoes can be found all over the world, also promotes art and culture and wants to shine a spotlight on innovation and environmental issues. The cultural project, which is headed up by Vittoria Matarrese, is aiming to support creative and visionary talents in Switzerland and around the world. The Sometimes we are eternal exhibition (running from 27 October 2023 until 25 February 2024) is the first solo exhibition to be held by the artist Sarah Brahim. In Lugano, there are also numerous galleries represented by the Association of Art Galleries of Lugano (GAL), whose aim is to acquaint a wide audience of collectors, art lovers and those interested in finding out more about contemporary art. The nine member galleries are currently working on the annual exhibition, which is set to take place in spring 2024, as well as an extensive programme of lectures, discussions, and other accompanying events.

Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains have always attracted creative minds and writers from across the globe. The Museo Hermann Hesse is located in the municipality of Collina d’Oro, just a stone’s throw away from the city. The poet and painter spent the last 43 years of his life at Casa Camuzzi and felt at home in the village of Montagnola, where the unique landscape and special light conditions were a source of fascination and inspiration for the artist.

Photo Alex Lambrechts

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