Situated on Rämistrasse 34, across from the Kunsthaus and located inside of the Schauspielhaus, Gallery Ziegler is a Zurich institution rich in tradition. With an over 60 year span, the gallery is one of the oldest in the world and continues to be run idiosyncratically by its two founders.
The city of Paris serves as a catalyst in the gallery's development. Not only did the active gallery owners Renée and Maurice Ziegler meet one another in that city, but together they discovered their fascination for the Parisian art scene. In 1954, Renée Ziegler began an internship at the Galerie Louise Leiris with Daniel Henri Kahnweiler. Meanwhile, Maurice Ziegler worked with Bernard Zehrfuss, an Architect in the French Civil Service who, together with Marcel Breuer, had planned the UNESCO headquarters in Paris shortly before. Along with Jean Prouvé and others, Maurice was involved in designing the metal facade of the CNIT which was the first large building on the Rondpoint de la Defense. Together Renée and Maurice made the acquaintance of artists such as Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, André Masson as well as André Beaudin, Eugène de Kermadec and Alberto Giacometti. They soon developed the need to create a space in Zurich for the work of the artists they had come to love during their time in Paris. After a few years of hesitation, the merchant and architect of musical houses took a leap and opened their own gallery on December 5, 1959. This bold venture was successful from the very beginning, as the Zurich public was attracted by the artwork and artists who were not yet exhibited anywhere else in the city at the time.
The Swiss Writer and Art Historian Paul Nizon described this early period of the gallery in beautiful words: At the beginning of the 1960s, the Ziegler Gallery was a novelty and striking, it began its activities with classical modernism of French influence with great, almost holy, names, and the climate was simply wonderful, stylish, value-conscious, noble; in the air a touch of Parisianism. What I mean to say is that the beginning was conceivably unprovincial and demanding, exquisite.
In the 1960s, the gallery owners expanded their program to include Swiss artists from their own generation, whom they had met in the lively Bernese art scene and in the circle of the Zurich Concrete artists from 1955 onwards. The iron sculptors Bernhard Luginbühl, Robert Müller, Oscar Wiggli, and Jean Tinguely took an important place, as did the artists Meret Oppenheim, Daniel Spoerri, Dieter Roth, Mathias Spescha, Gianfredo Camesi, and ‘die konkreten' Richard Paul Lohse and max bill. The two gallery owners also visited Jean Arp in Ticino and selected works together with the artist for an exhibition that took place in 1962, the same year they met Kimber Smith in Paris.
In 1963, the gallery owners joined a several week trip to New York organized by the Kunstverein Nordrheinwestfahlen. Together with curators, museum directors and artists such as Arnold Rüdlinger, Harald Szeemann and Gotthard Graubner, they visited the studios of the young artists Tom Doyle, Al Held, Eva Hesse, Bob Huot, Alfred Jensen, Roy Lichtenstein, Kenneth Noland, Marc Rothko, Tony Smith and George Sugarman, who were still unknown in Europe, and they also met David Hockney. They presented the works of almost all of these artists to the interested public starting in 1963.
Prospekta 68 marked the beginning of the gallery owners' international exhibition activities, while Maurice Ziegler, who was part of the board of directors from 1971-76, used his knowledge to ensure the success of the Interantionale Messe Basel, now known as Art Basel.
On their way to Art Chicago in 1984, the gallery owners immersed themselves in the unconventional world of the "aerosol writers" during a stopover in Soho, NYC. Through their daughter Sandra Ziegler they became acquainted with artists such as RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ and Phase II, to whom the gallery owners dedicated individual exhibitions during 1985. Organized by Corinne Ziegler and Rolf Wäber, these exhibitions invited the artists to Zurich, where RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ’s artistic work was recorded in a video documentation. The testimony of this exciting and creative time can be watched on Youtube.
In recent years, Renée and Maurice Ziegler have devoted themselves increasingly to classic modern art, while their son Serge Ziegler has incorporated his own impulses into the gallery's program. As has been the case since its beginnings, Galerie Ziegler’s program lives from the owners' artistic intuition, which is not limited by national borders or the boundaries of different art movements, but keeps exciting new discoveries in stall for the public or opens up new perspectives to familiar things.