Swiss Institute

Edification value  
Entertainment value  2/5
Should you go?  
Time spent 14 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned To complement the silent Warhol videos, the Swiss Institute played a recording of Erik Satie’s piano piece, “42 Vexations.”  I felt a goodly number of vexations while at the Swiss Institute, but fewer than that.

Swiss Institute Contemporary Art, New YorkThe Swiss Institute is a tiny open gallery space in the ground floor of an old Tribeca building.  It’s small and very straightforward, with a little exposed brick and some antique floor tile, but without much floor area to play around with.

Seeing the place, I hypothesized that it was named after a guy, like it’s the gallery of Mike Swiss.  However, I’ve confirmed it is the country, not a person.  I’m a little puzzled by why the Swiss might want to have a tiny art space in a city replete with them.  Is it fiercely neutral? Quixotically democratic? Do they serve great chocolate? None of those things as far as I could tell.

Currently the Swiss Institute is participating in the artist Ugo Rondinone’s multi-gallery birthday present to his husband, “I John Giorno.”  I saw another part of that installation at White Columns a week ago.

Warhol Films Sleep, Induces Same

Here, Rondinone (who is Swiss, so at least there’s some kind of connection) features a series of Andy Warhol videos. Young John Giorno was Warhol’s muse and lover.  Projected super-large on the wall in digitized grainy black-and-white is “Sleep” (1963), featuring over five hours of Giorno sleeping. *Yawn.*

Warhol's "Sleep," Swiss Institute New York
Warhol’s “Sleep,” and other videos

Cathode-ray tube monitors around the perimeter of the gallery feature other Warhol videos of Giorno and mutual friends. Two videos show him in the altogether: hanging out (literally) in a hammock and doing the dishes.

I appreciated that they’re showing the videos on CRTs.  As at BRIC House, showing video art on the intended screen works way better than trying to put it on a modern, retina display panel.

However, I find Warhol’s videos insanely boring.  His screen test close-ups of people just sitting there, his home-movie-style shaky cam videos of his friends goofing around, his naughty videos of naked guys… All of it seems amateurish and tame and lame.  Rondinone curating Warhol’s work in the context of his self-indulgent project doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It also doesn’t make it particularly Swiss.Swiss Institute New York

You Can Miss the Swiss

I don’t know who should go to the Swiss Institute.  Of course, it might be worth it depending on the content of future shows. But unless they move, they will never have space to show very much of anything. There are many better, bigger, more interesting places to see art in this city. Unless they manage a blockbuster coup of a show (which old Warhol videos of Giorno are definitely not), or start giving away free chocolate, it’s very safe to skip this one.

For Reference:

Website 102 Franklin Street, Manhattan
Cost Free