The Swiss Art and Culture Scene

Zurich, Foyer of the Schauspielhaus Zürich



As a country where diverse traditions and cultures meet and interact, Switzerland has been a melting-pot in the heart of Europe since time immemorial. This is why cultural life in cosmopolitan Switzerland displays such enormous variety.

From Creating Art to the Art Market

Especially considering Switzerland's size and population, this country is a leading nation in terms of the arts.

There is no such thing as "typically Swiss art". There is a clear and repeated focus on the Alps as a living environment. The tendency to be modest is also a recurrent theme. But by and large, the arts in Switzerland are just as diverse as the country itself. On the other hand, the abundance of places where art can be admired or bought is a typically Swiss feature. There is virtually no other country on earth with as many museums per head of the population as Switzerland. There are also numerous galleries and auctions as well as international and regional fairs to delight the hearts of art enthusiasts from all over the world.

Architecture, design and fashion

Whether you are interested in creative works or more down-to-earth products, in architecture, graphic art or product design, Switzerland has plenty to offer.

Few countries of this size can boast an arts scene that has attracted international attention, admiration and imitation over such a long period. In fact, the world has Switzerland to thank for more than a few icons: the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Che Guevara by René Burri, the 'Boy Playing his Flute" by Werner Bischof, Le Corbusier's chaise longue and Max Bill's clock – the list goes on. Fonts such as Frutiger, Helvetica and Univers, and all the everyday products that have made their way into the Museum of Modern Art: USM Haller modular furniture, Freitag bags, the first Swatch, the Swiss Army knife.

Films and photography

The Swiss film scene is flourishing as never before: measured by market share and cinema tickets bought, 2013 was the most successful year for the Swiss cinema since 2006, the year when "Late Bloomers" was such a hit.

Although the quality and artistic standard of Swiss films are consistently high, this country's feature films in particular are not especially renowned. The picture is very different for documentaries: according to figures from Swiss Films, the number of documentary films made in Switzerland over the last five years was twice the number of feature films. Among these varied productions, it is not unusual to find gems that have become regular guests at major festivals from Berlin to Cannes.

Literature and theatre

For a long time, literature from Switzerland was mainly literature about Switzerland.

Paul Nizon, Niklaus Meienberg, Franz Hohler, Thomas Hürlimann and Hugo Loetscher – for writers such as these, the tempestuous love-hate relationship with their homeland was often a major driving force. However, the literary hearts of the new generation beat to a different rhythm – ¬with themes such as autobiography, love, sex and partnership stress coming to the fore. As a result, readers outside of Switzerland are taking more interest in Swiss authors – who are, in turn, becoming more renowned. The lively and varied theatre scene in Switzerland is also chalking up plenty of successes – with well-known names such as Barbara Frey in established theatres, daring performances on the independent scene and productions staged by amateur groups who have become especially popular with Swiss audiences.

Music and dance

Switzerland is brimming over with music, with the largest number of music festivals by area of any European country – and the dance scene is equally impressive.

Polyphony is the keynote of music in today's Switzerland – hardly surprising for a federalist, multi-cultural country such as this one. Jazz, opera, hip-hop, brass band music, punk, dialect rock, Swiss folk music and the melodies of emigrants from the Balkans – nowadays, these are all natural facets of Switzerland as a musical centre. Many cities also boast professional ballet ensembles, including Heinz Spoerli's Zurich Ballet and the Béjart Ballet in Lausanne which have earned international renown. The French-speaking region of Switzerland is also host to the Prix de Lausanne, an international competition for young dancers.