Founded by Cristina Bechtler, the E.A.T. are led by Daniel Baumann (Director of the Kunsthalle Zürich), Bice Curiger (Director of the Fondation Van Gogh Arles), Hans Ulrich Obrist (Artistic Director at the Serpentine Galleries in London) and Philip Ursprung (Professor gta/ETH Zürich). On the run-up to the sixth edition, we speak to E.A.T. founder and art collector Cristina Bechtler about the talk program, the importance of merging art and architecture and the stunning and intimate setting of Zuoz.
This year marks the sixth edition of E.A.T., with the topic being “Snow and Desert”. Why did you decide to found the Engadin Art Talks and why was the decision made to have it in Zuoz?CRISTINA BECHTLER
Together with Hans Ulrich Obrist we were interested in a series of talks linking art and society with politics and science and all fields of interest. Right from the beginning we were inspired by Bruno Thauts “Glass Chain”, a utopian series of letters regarding the Alps as ideal place for a better society. We decided to do the talks in the Engadin for its rich cultural heritage. Every year we select a different topic to address, and this year we have chosen “Snow & Desert”.
The infinite landscapes of the desert or snow have for many years served as inspiration for artists, writers, architects and scientists alike, and the qualities of both have influenced creatives over generations. Nowadays the Sahara Desert and the Arctic are becoming places of symbolism and we hear more about climate change, survival strategies and the refugee crisis. We often look towards creativity to respond to crisis because art, architecture, literature and poetry can be a form of activism, offering a frame for exploring questions and finding explanations.
E.A.T. brings together art and architecture in a truly unique setting. Is this something that you also incorporate when creating and exhibiting your own relationship to art and your collection?CRISTINA BECHTLER
Our collecting activity is separate from our E.A.T. activity but of course it shares the view that everything is connected.
E.A.T. discusses topics that go far beyond the realms of art, with conversations surrounding architecture, science and philosophy. Why is it important for you and the other curators to have such varied topics on the table for an “art talk”?CRISTINA BECHTLER
Indeed E.A.T. can be also seen as going beyond a pure art talk, with each year focusing on the topic of the future of our society, but with the jumping board for the presentation being art and its many facets of relevance of contemporary society.
What role does collecting play in your day-to-day life?CRISTINA BECHTLER
Our collecting strategy aims at building up large work groups of artists of interest rather than single works by many. So we like to follow an artist over a long period.
Are there any themes or issues on which your collection specializes, especially due to the fact that the collection is exhibited at Hotel Castell in Zuoz?CRISTINA BECHTLER
We believe that the social responsibility of art goes far beyond its aesthetic vocabulary, something that can be seen in the works of Thomas Hirschhorn, an artist we appreciate very much. It should also be noted that the collection at the Hotel Castell in Zuoz belongs to my brother in law, and who is also one of the principle initiators of art activities in the Engadin.
Your husband’s father founded one of the largest Swiss art foundation, whose mission is to make contemporary art accessible. Is the program of the E.A.T. connected with a collection visit?CRISTINA BECHTLER
In the 50’s my father in law was very much interested in the then not well-known topic of art in public space and tried to place artworks around his hometown of Zurich. Today, the foundation also loans groups of works to the many different museums in Switzerland.