Swiss Grand Award for Art | Prix Meret Oppenheim 2021

Swiss Grand Award for Art | Prix Meret Oppenheim 2021

Swiss Art Awards

Graphic design & art direction: Adeline Mollard. Photos: Karla Hiraldo Voleau (Georges Descombes),  Douglas Mandry (Esther Eppstein), Flavio Karrer (Vivian Suter). Illustration: Olga Prader.

April 9, 2021
Swiss Grand Award for Art | Prix Meret Oppenheim 2021
September 20–26, 2021
Messe Basel
Messeplatz 10
Hall 1.1
4058 Basel

Upon recommendation of the Federal Art Commission, the Federal Office of Culture is pleased to award the Swiss Grand Award for Art | Prix Meret Oppenheim 2021 to three outstanding Swiss culture practitioners: architect Georges Descombes; curator Esther Eppstein; and artist Vivian Suter.

Georges Descombes
Recognised as “the architect of the territory,” Georges Descombes has been questioning for the last 40 years what it means for an architect to design a landscape in the urban environment. Besides his teaching activities, he realised projects guided by interdisciplinary groups which also consider the precedent history of the site. Among his most famous projects, there is the Geneva section of the “Swiss path” around the lake of the Four Cantons, the Bijlmer Memorial in Amsterdam, the Quai des Matériaux in Brussels, and the southern port of Antwerp. With the completion of the renaturation of the Aire river landscape in the canton of Geneva in 2015, his most formative project to date, Georges Descombes leads us to reflect on the role of nature and its relationship to the man, who is both the responsible party and the victim of the age of the Anthropocene.

Esther Eppstein
The work of Esther Eppstein brings together the ecosystems of art and life. Since 1996, with her art and exhibition space message salon and numerous individual projects in the city of Zurich, she helped to reshape the perception of its Kreis 4 and brought it to the public eye. Her intention of creating a network around the physical space of the salon generated an inclusive and diverse social structure, from which the city’s art scene still benefits. After the closure of the exhibition space in 2015, her message salon embassy continues to pursue this aim and invites international artists to be active in Zurich. Her contribution as a curator and artist has been widely recognized by the City and Canton of Zurich and the Federal Office of Culture.

Vivian Suter
Nature is Vivian Suter’s studio. Born in Argentina in a family of artists, Vivian Suter attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel. After her first exhibitions in the 1980s, she left Switzerland for Central America. There, in the middle of a former coffee plantation in Guatemala, she developed her own artistic practice detached from external influences and created an outstanding independent language in which are impressed the moments of her creation. The peculiarities of this specific production are especially felt in the context of her exhibitions as the paintings in the room come together to form parts of a huge textile sculpture. Moving around in Vivian Suter’s exhibitions feels like an immersive experience that conducts into the distance and density of the rainforest.

Publication and portraits
The Federal Office of Culture is publishing the Swiss Grand Award for Art | Prix Meret Oppenheim 2021, featuring portraits and interviews of the laurates. The interviews were conducted by Victoria Easton (architect, Christ & Gantenbein, Basel) with Georges Descombes; San Keller (artist, Zurich) with Esther Eppstein; and Julie Enckell Julliard (Head of Cultural development Department at HEAD, Geneva) with Vivian Suter.

ISBN 978-3-9525152-7-3 (German, English, and French)

Director Marie-Eve Hildbrand (Terrain Vague, Lausanne) is producing film portraits of the laureates (German and French with English subtitles).

The portraits will be first presented at the Swiss Art Awards 2021 exhibition and will be online from September 20, 2021, at

Georges Descombes
Esther Eppstein
Vivian Suter

Prix Meret Oppenheim
Created in 2001 by the Federal Office of Culture in collaboration with the Federal Art Commission, the Swiss Grand Award for Art | Prix Meret Oppenheim is awarded on the recommendation of the Commission to artists, architects, curators, researchers, and critics, whose internationally renowned work is of particular relevance and importance to Swiss artistic and architectural practice. Each award carries prize money of CHF 40,000.
For press enquiries please contact: media-kunst [​at​]

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April 9, 2021

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