10 February 2023 - 01 October 2023, VILLA MALPENSATA, LUGANO
120 years after the birth of the Swiss surrealist artist and collector Serge Brignoni, MUSEC celebrates the passion and visionary spirit of the man who, by donating more than 650 world-class works to the City of Lugano, led to the birth of the Museo delle Culture in the mid-1980s.
ARTE AGLI ANTIPODI is the first major exhibition that MUSEC dedicates entirely to the Brignoni Collection in its new location at Villa Malpensata. The exhibition is a further step in the work conducted since 2005, the beginning of MUSEC’s relaunch phase, to fully realise Brignoni’s dream at the origin of his decision to donate his collection. Brignoni’s intention was to make future generations understand how the discovery of ethnic art had forever transformed the languages of the avant-gardes, and how the works he had passionately collected for over sixty years were illustrious sources for understanding the transformations of 20th century art.
Curated by Francesco Paolo Campione, director of MUSEC, the temporary exhibition shows 73 masterpieces from South-East Asia and Oceania, including small and large sculptures, masks, shields, and architectural elements representing the excellence of each genre and style. In addition to presenting some works that have never been exhibited in the Museum’s original location (the Heleneum), for the first time the exhibition brings together works donated to the City of Lugano in 1985 and sculptures from the small nucleus that Brignoni had destined for the Bern Kunstmuseum, which, in turn, donated it to MUSEC in 2018. The exhibition is set in the 13 rooms of the Spazio Mostre on the two main floors of the Villa Malpensata.
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