10 February 2023 - 01 October 2023, VILLA MALPENSATA, LUGANO
The exhibition pays tribute to Serge Brignoni (1903-2002) who, with the donation in the mid-1980s of his extraordinary collection of ethnic art, led to the birth of MUSEC. In the Swiss surrealist artist’s vision, his six hundred and more masterpieces were to enable future generations to understand the artistic lesson of the peoples who had created them and, at the same time, to discover the deep links between ethnic art and the aesthetic and expressive choices of 20th century art. In fact, Brignoni belonged to the generation of European artists who, between the two wars, chose to live in Paris, sharing the impulse to create new artistic languages and the love for “other” arts.
On two floors of the Villa Malpensata, immersed in an astonishing setting, about seventy works illustrate both an extraordinary diversity of artistic languages and Brignoni’s intuition of an “Art of the South Seas” that unites, in a single artistic and cultural horizon, South India, parts of South-East Asia, Indonesia and Oceania.
Sergio (Serge) Brignoni was born in San Simone di Vacallo on 12 October 1903. At a very young age, in 1919, he attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Bern while taking painting and drawing courses at Viktor Surbek's school. Two years later he enrolled at the Brera Academy and then at the Hochschule für bildende Kunst in Berlin. In 1923, he moved to Paris to attend André Lothe's courses and began to call himself Serge. In 1926 he participated in the Salon des Indépendants and held his first solo exhibition together with Joan Miró at the Galerie Odette Luce. The decisive encounter was with the circle of André Breton, through which he approached Surrealism. Thanks to his Parisian acquaintances, Brignoni approached ethnic art, beginning in 1924 to collect and trade works of art from Africa, Asia and Oceania. His discovery of the figurative languages of simple cultures contributes to the eclecticism of his sculpture and to a pictorial research of forms with bright and contrasting colours, more or less dense, that draw transparencies and seem immersed in a liquid or gaseous universe. During his Parisian years, he became a member of Gruppe 33 and gained a certain amount of expressive autonomy in the Parisian artistic milieu, especially after he moved to Meudon in 1932 with the Chilean painter Chela (Graciela) Aranis Valdivia (1908-1996), who was to become his wife in 1935. In 1940, due to the war, he returned to Switzerland, settling first in Ticino and then in Berne, devoting himself uninterruptedly to artistic production and collecting ethnic art. In 1985, he decided to donate his collection of ethnic art to the City of Lugano, thus providing the decisive impulse for the creation of the Museo delle Culture, which opened its doors on 23 September 1989. In 1998 he married his second wife Marlyse Haller and moved to Zollikofen.
Serge Brignoni died in Bern on 6 January 2002.
Serge Brignoni in his studio in Bern. 1975