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07 March 2024 - 30 June 2024, Spazio Tesoro, Villa Malpensata

TUTTI A SCUOLA! Disegni di bambini al tempo di Dada

MUSEC inaugurates a new appointment dedicated to children's creativity with an exhibition in the Spazio Maraini of Villa Malpensata. The exhibition, curated by Adriana Mazza (MUSEC) and Igor Nastic, lecturer and external collaborator of the museum, presents 55 Swiss children's drawings selected from the immense archive of the Pestalozzianum Foundation in Zurich.
The drawings were made in the first two decades of the 20th century. In those same years, the avant-gardes challenged the established canons of Western art, opening up to forms of creativity that had previously been kept at the margins: the art of distant cultures, archaic and folk arts and more. Artists also looked at children's art with new eyes and wanted to grasp the secret of the immediacy with which children perceived and depicted reality. The interest in the 'new sources' would also drag in the playful irreverence of the Dada movement, which was born in 1916 around a group of European artists and intellectuals who, in order to escape the war, had found themselves somewhat by chance in neutral and placid Zurich. Meanwhile, unaware of what artists were projecting onto them, children continued to draw.But they were no longer doing it as they had done in the past: outside the narrow circle of the avant-gardes, the keen interest in children's creativity had already been spreading for some time among pedagogues and teachers all over Europe. Switzerland, too, was involved in a general renewal of the practice of school drawing, marking the transition from a 19th century pedagogy to a school that was heading towards modernity. The drawings on display, made by children between the ages of two and thirteen, thus provide an insight into the gradual transition from the spontaneity typically associated with childhood to the internalisation of technical and formal codes shaped by school education. Driven by the desire to do better and better, even to gain the approval of adults, children never gave up expressing their creativity and individuality.These emerge, for example, in the deviations from the rules imposed by the exercises and above all in the carefree compositional freedoms, which tell of a world viewed with lightness and confidence: an attitude that the Dada artists, in the context of a Europe in ruins, chased after with desperate nostalgia.
Tutti a scuola! also benefits from the collaboration of the Bellinzona Centre for Dialectology and Ethnography, which lent some toys from the first half of the 20th century from the State's ethnographic collection. 


Foto gallery


Let's go to school! is the twelfth event in the Dèibambini cycle, a MUSEC project launched in 2005 as a platform for interaction between the museum and schools. In its first ten years, the project allowed children to engage with different themes, with the aim of increasing their awareness of their own potential and inner vision and strengthening their ability to interpret the world. Since 2020, the project has been renewed and the starting point has become the works of children from the past. The idea is to build a bridge between the children's creativity of yesterday and today, through the in-depth exploration of expressive content that not only interconnects cultures, but has served as an extraordinary source for the renewal of artistic languages in the 20th century.


Let's go to school! Children's drawings at the time of Dada, edited by Adriana Mazza. Contains an introduction by Massimiliano Vitali.

Texts by:

  • Adriana Mazza (Intreccio di sguardi sulla creatività infantile. Tra pedagogia e Avanguardie);
  • Dario Bianchi (L’evoluzione del disegno infantile);
  • Anne Bosche e Wolfgang Sahlfeld (Il disegno scolastico in Svizzera all’inizio del Novecento).

Fondazione culture e musei, Lugano 2024. Pp. 180. ISBN 979-12-80443-07-6; CHF / € 24.

copertina TAS