Visual arts
Marco Godinho © Luke A. Walker
Visual arts

Visual arts

The visual arts in Luxembourg

In the disciplines of the visual arts, Luxembourg can be proud that, despite its small size, it has such a large and varied offering, in both State-funded and private galleries. The works housed in those galleries are a mix of the national and the international. This article seeks to provide an overview that, necessarily, makes no attempt to be exhaustive. Instead, it gives those who want to know more an outline of the first stirrings of the arts in the Grand Duchy in the late 19th century, of how they developed during the 20th century, and of the last 25 years, which are the starting point of a present that has become exceptionally diversified. The article also, of course, makes predictions for the future.

In recent years, the field of the visual arts has expanded: in addition to its classic forms of painting on canvas and sculptures on pedestals, it now encompasses installations, photography, video and artworks in public spaces. In view of that expansion, this article has adopted the unconventional approach of starting at the end.

Despite the fact that there has been an arts component to secondary education for some 30 years and that technical secondary schools have always offered teaching similar to practical training in the crafts (the oldest such school, the Lycée des Arts et Métiers, was founded in 1896), the country’s small size means that Luxembourg artists go abroad to study. Nevertheless, there is a Media and Arts department, founded in 2003, in the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences at the University of Luxembourg.

For a long time, few Luxembourg artists made a living from their art, often having day jobs as schoolteachers, and producing paintings, gravure prints or sculptures, for example, in their spare time. Since the 1990s, however, the country’s visual artists have considered their field a discipline and profession in its own right; this is all the truer for the younger generation. Once they return to Luxembourg – or, given that some artists choose to live abroad, from their adopted country – having immersed themselves in international schools, a raft of bursaries and residencies enable them to make their budding potential known to the major players in the cultural scene, and to develop their craft.

Cultural centres owned by the central and local governments can also offer artists their first exhibitions, as can galleries specialising in contemporary art.

The beginnings of an active policy on contemporary culture

In 1995, Luxembourg was European Capital of Culture. It was a landmark date, as that status boosted the contemporary visual arts in the Grand Duchy and gave them a visibility that has proved enduring. The visual arts have since become professionalised, in particular thanks to Casino Luxembourg - Forum d’art contemporain, which opened in 1996 and is dedicated to exhibiting the most current and experimental visual artforms. Its first director was the Luxembourg art historian Enrico Lunghi (b. 1962); since 2016, its director has been Kevin Muhlen (b. 1977), also an art historian by training.

This was followed, in 1998, by Luxembourg’s organisation of the second Manifesta – The European Nomadic Biennial, which focused on contemporary art. Next, in 2006, came the opening of Mudam – The Contemporary Art Museum of Luxembourg. The preparatory work was initially entrusted to Frenchman Bernard Ceysson (b. 1939), who was then Director of the Museum of Art and Industry of Saint-Étienne, the city of his birth, and now runs a series of galleries, one of which is in Luxembourg. Further work was done by Marie-Claude Beaud (b. 1946), also French, who has been, among other things, founder and Director of the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain (Paris) and Director of the museums of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs (also Paris), ending her career as Director of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco in 2021. In 2009, Enrico Lunghi succeeded her, staying in post until 2016. Suzanne Cotter (b. 1961) has been Director of Mudam since 2017. She arrived from the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, having previously been CEO of the Serpentine Gallery in London, Director of Modern Art Oxford, and Curator of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Having built up a collection of contemporary art, Mudam now complements the role played by Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain as an art centre, something that had been missing from Luxembourg’s State-funded galleries.

These two State-funded galleries actively pursue a policy of putting on exhibitions of international stature, involving the visual arts, photography, video, installations and performances. Over the years, Mudam has held a number of retrospectives spotlighting Luxembourg visual artists: in 2006, painter Michel Majerus (1967-2002); in 2017, visual artist Su-Mei Tse (b. 1973); in 2019, visual artist Bert Theis (1952-2016); and, in 2020, painter Jean-Marie Biwer (b. 1957).

Nuit des Musées 2019 ©d’stater muséeën Photo Christian Aschman

Visibility at the Venice Biennale: a choice that has had an impact

The Ministry of Culture supports Luxembourg’s presence at major international events. The Venice Biennale is a leading international art exhibition and, obviously, a huge opportunity for Luxembourg artists to gain visibility at a top-line event, drawing visitors from all over the world.

The Luxembourg delegations of artists and architects – who alternate every two years – occupied the intimate and slightly off-the-beaten-track setting of the ground floor of Ca’ del Duca from 1999 to 2017. The far larger location now allocated to them in one of the Arsenale’s Sale d’Armi poses a challenge. This step up in scale and the fact that Luxembourg can now be directly compared with other countries illustrates the shift in the Grand Duchy’s ambitions.

Su-Mei Tse (b. 1973) won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Multimedia visual artists who have represented the Grand Duchy and are now enjoying international success include: Martine Feipel (b. 1975) and Jean Bechameil (b. 1964) in 2011; Filip Markiewicz (b. 1980) in 2015; Mike Bourscheid (b. 1984) in 2017; and Marco Godinho (b. 1978) in 2019. The painter Tina Gillen (b. 1972) will represent Luxembourg at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Four years after Su-Mei Tse, in 2007, Jill Mercedes (b. 1964) also produced a noteworthy exhibition at the Biennale: Endless Lust. Then there is painter and sculptor Patricia Lippert (b. 1956), who was one of Luxembourg’s first exhibitors at the Biennale, in 1988, well before the Grand Duchy started using Ca’ del Duca. Other names to remember include sculptor Bertrand Ney (b. 1955), visual artist Simone Decker (b. 1968), painters Luc Wolff (b. 1954), Gast Bouschet (b. 1958) and Nadine Hilbert (b. 1961), and director Antoine Prum (b. 1963).

Filip Markiewicz_Ultraplastic Rhapsody

Public funding and residencies: creativity grants and bursaries

The Ministry of Culture provides significant funding for the development of cultural infrastructure, and for grants, bursaries and artists’ residencies (in- and outside Luxembourg). This sits alongside the funding made available by the National Cultural Fund (Focuna), a public body founded in 1982 – the functions of which have now been taken over by Kultur | lx – and the State-funded philanthropic body Œuvre nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte, through the stART-up fund it created in 2012.

A residency abroad is an excellent way for an artist to develop their work and conduct research. Partnerships have been developed with the Cité internationale des arts (Paris), Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin) and Fonderie Darling (Montreal). Within Luxembourg, various State-funded bodies are involved in setting up locations for residencies. Other cultural centres also offer multidisciplinary residencies, such as Kulturfabrik in Esch-sur-Alzette and Neimënster Abbey in Luxembourg City. The latter is a cultural centre and meeting place opened in 2004, which regularly holds exhibitions and discussions on contemporary art and the visual arts.

New cultural centres focused on the young creatives of the future

Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain was recently put in charge of managing Beim Engel, a gallery that has earned a reputation for helping young artists get started in their careers, for example visual artist Simone Decker (b. 1968). It will be a place for young creatives to work and research, and to engage in discussions and find guidance, with the goal of supporting them by promoting their work through a brand-new programme, known as « Casino Display ».

Also in Luxembourg City, in a former depot and repair shop for the steam locomotives of the State railway company, Rotondes does noteworthy work to support young artists from the Grand Duchy and its neighbouring regions of France, Belgium and Germany through the Triennale Jeune Création (Triennale for Young Creatives), launched in 2007 to mark the stint as European Capital of Culture enjoyed by Luxembourg and those same neighbouring regions. Rotondes also organises the Luxembourg Encouragement for Artists Prize, which has been awarded very two years since 2016. It has been won by Sophie Jung (b. 1982) in 2016, Laurianne Bixhain (b. 1987) in 2018 and Hisae Ikenaga (b. 1977) in 2020. Since 2017, Rotondes has also been exploring new virtual and digital artforms with the Multiplica Festival.

In the south of the country is Esch-sur-Alzette, which was Luxembourg’s most important steel-working city until the industry declined in the 1980s. One important gallery in Esch is Galerie Schlassgoart, founded in 1993 by the steel company ARBED. Although the gallery’s mission is to promote contemporary art, it has less of an impact on the artistic landscape of Esch than Kulturfabrik, which is essentially a social and cultural centre, established in the former municipal abattoir 25 years ago.

Very recently, the Municipality of Esch-sur-Alzette decided to turn an old furniture shop into a venue for exhibiting contemporary art, known as Konschthal; art historian Christian Mosar (b. 1968) has been appointed as director and its opening is slated for 2021. Designed as a platform for contemporary visual art pieces and exhibitions from in- and outside Luxembourg, Konschthal is also intended to become a setting for social and cultural debates. Its first series of exhibitions, entitled Schaufenster, should get it off to a good start. This future venue cannot be taken in isolation from the Esch2022 European Capital of Culture process, which encompasses the whole south of the country. Right now, Esch2022 is giving young creatives the opportunity to exhibit their work at Pavilion P4, in one of the city’s main squares.

Sophie Jung ©Lynn Theisen

Artists’ studios

More studios are currently becoming available. Since February 2021, the Luxembourg Association of Visual Artists (AAPL) has been making available 45 studios in an old barracks.

In fact, this is a tradition that has been brought back: for example, the Empreinte gravure-printing workshop association (since 1994), the Sixthfloor collective in Koerich (since 2001) and, the country’s oldest collective of artists’ studios, Schläiffmillen in Luxembourg City (since 1986). Other places for artists to meet up and work are being established: Bâtiment IV, which is a cultural community centre, and the Bridderhaus, which is the artists’ residence attached to Konschthal, Esch-sur-Alzette.

Luxembourg and photography: a special relationship

Photography is particularly significant in Luxembourg. The driving force behind this is the legacy, in his native Luxembourg, of famous photographer Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition. Born in Bivange in 1879, he became Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Since 1974, Family of Man has been on permanent display in Clervaux Castle, where the start of the 2000s saw a new, contemporary layout respecting the “spirit” of the configuration of the New York space where it was originally exhibited, in 1955. Steichen’s The Bitter Years exhibition, made up of photographs commissioned by the US Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression of the 1930s, was also bequeathed to Luxembourg by Steichen. The Bitter Years was exhibited from 2012 to 2020 in the old steelworks in Dudelange.

These photographs were restored by the National Centre for the Audio-visual Arts (CNA), which was founded in 1989 to manage historical collections. The CNA is the centre for archiving the Grand Duchy’s audio-visual records (500,000 photographs, animations and audio recordings) and has a gallery for exhibiting contemporary photography. Every year, the CNA Bursary for Creativity and Profile-raising in Photography is awarded. This enables the winning photographer to produce a piece of personal work and promote it, by putting on an exhibition and/or releasing a publication. In 2019, there were six winners of the 11th CNA Bursary: Sébastien Cuvelier (b. 1973), Anna Krieps, Carole Melchior, Pasha Rafiy (b. 1980), Marie Sommer and Jeff Weber. In 2020, Bruno Balzer and Leonora Bisagno, Justine Blau, Samuel Bollendorff (b. 1974), Marie Capesius, Carine Krecké and Birgit Ludwig were chosen.

In the 1980s, a regular publication called Café Crème, was launched by Paul Di Felice and Pierre Stiwer. It later became involved in the series of exhibitions known as Semaines Européennes de l’Image, which has since become European Month of Photography (EMoP). The eighth EMoP is taking place in 2021. It is an unmissable event, with exhibitions spread across numerous venues – State-funded and private – all over Luxembourg.

In 2004, the Edward Steichen Award (ESA) was created. It is bestowed on an emerging European photographer every two years, starting in 2005. Winners from Luxembourg have included Su-Mei Tse (2005) and Sophie Jung (2013). Since 2011, there has also been a Luxembourg ESA, which is awarded specifically to a photographer from the Grand Duchy. Past winners include Claudia Passeri in 2011, Jeff Desom in 2013, Jeff Weber in 2015 and Daniel Wagener in 2017. In 2019, Mary-Audrey Ramirez landed the international ESA, while Nora Wagner took home the Luxembourg ESA, with a New York residency into the bargain.

Lastly, 2017 saw the establishment of the Lëtz’Arles association, through which Luxembourg photographers have a high-profile showcase in the Chapelle de la Charité at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival (France). Following an initial collective exhibition in 2017, six photographers have had dedicated exhibitions at Arles: Pasha Rafiy and Laurianne Bixhain in 2018, Claudia Passeri and Krystyna Dul in 2019, and Daniel Reuter and Lisa Kohl (b. 1988) in 2021.

« Aedicula 1 à 5 » _Claudia Passeri, Aedicula, 2019

Luxembourgers’ work in the Grand Duchy’s public collections

Throughout the 20th century, some Luxembourg artists had nationwide profiles. First and foremost are expressionist painter Joseph Kutter (1894-1941) and sculptor Lucien Wercollier (1908-2002), the latter influenced by Brâncuși and Arp. Also noteworthy, from even earlier and working in more traditional styles, were watercolourist Sosthène Weis (1872-1941), sculptor Claus Cito (1882-1965) and sculptor Auguste Trémont (1892-1980), the latter specialising in animals. The first half of the 20th century still had some painters, in particular of landscapes and portraits. Examples in Luxembourg included Nico Klopp (1894-1930), Jean Schaack (1895-1959), Jean-Pierre Beckius (1899-1964) and Joseph Probst (1911-1997).

The National Museum of History and Art (MNHA) was opened in 1946, when it was called the Luxembourg State Museums. It was down to its director, the art historian Joseph-Emile Müller (1911-1999), that works by all the artists mentioned in the previous paragraph were included in a section mainly dedicated to the School of Paris. The result was a modern art section in Luxembourg’s only museum, which was generalist at the time.

Villa Vauban, which is one of the two museums run by the Municipality of Luxembourg City, houses a collection of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century paintings and sculptures. The collection includes works of the Dutch and Flemish Golden Ages, along with pieces by Italian and French artists, and was inherited from three 19th-century Luxembourg collectors and philanthropists: Jean-Pierre Pescatore (1793-1855), Eugénie Dutreux-Pescatore (1810-1883) and Leo Lippmann (1808-1883). Their donations were made on the express condition that the works must be exhibited. During the second half of the 20th century, Villa Vauban continued acquiring works by Luxembourg artists, such as abstract painters Roger Bertemes (1927-2006), Marie-Paule Feiereisen (b. 1955), Michel Geimer (b. 1963), Fernand Roda (b. 1951) and Jeanine Unsen (b. 1975), as well as visual artist Sophie Jung (b. 1982), and painters Carine Kraus (b. 1949) and Chantal Maquet (b. 1982).

Another municipal cultural centre is particularly significant, for both historical and contemporary art: Dudelange. A working-class town during the century or so in which Luxembourg’s steel industry was flourishing, its local authority innovatively strove to increase the cultural awareness of this industrial town from the 19th century to the closure of the steelworks in the 1980s. This is continued through public exhibitions in the town’s municipal art centres: Nei Liicht and Dominique Lang. The municipality has an art collection representing most of the oeuvre of Luxembourg impressionist Dominique Lang (1874-1919), which it supplements for each exhibition. For some 20 years, the exhibitions of the Dudelange art centres have been closely focused on contemporary art. Up-and-coming artists often use a first exhibition at the Dominique Lang Art Centre as a springboard towards shows at other State-funded galleries and the private market.

The Armand Gaasch gallery, which used to be in Dudelange but is now closed, saw the first exhibition by Bert Theis (1952-2016). Mudam commissioned one of his works in the lead-up to its opening and one of his major pieces, known as European Pentagon, Safe & Sorry Pavilion and produced to be installed in Brussels in honour of Luxembourg’s 2005 EU presidency, was put on public display in Place de l’Europe, in Luxembourg City’s Kirchberg area, to mark Luxembourg’s time as European Capital of Culture.

Artistic circle associations going back over a century: the Luxembourg Arts Circle’s long history and prizes that have unearthed talents

Luxembourg’s first painting exhibition was held in the 19th century: the Luxembourg Arts Circle (CAL). Founded in 1893, it still takes place every two years. The CAL was and remains an important meeting place for artists, in particular those from Luxembourg. It created the Grand-Duke Adolphe Prize in 1902. Artists who have not been mentioned so far (and have works in Luxembourg collections) but have received the Grand-Duke Adolphe Prize include ceramicist Doris Becker, and painters Robert Brandy (b. 1946), Flora Mar (b. 1956) and Roland Schauls (b. 1953). In addition, the Pierre Werner Prize was created in 1993; it was awarded to painter Sandra Lieners (b. 1990) in 2018. Furthermore, the Révélation Prize was awarded to Pit Moling (b. 1984) in 2019, and to Filip Markiewicz (b. 1980) and photographer Lisa Kohl (b. 1988) in 2020. All this has brought about a revival in the CAL, which has been around for over a century.

At Cercle Cité’s exhibition space, known as Ratskeller, the Municipality of Luxembourg City has, since 2011, been organising exhibitions dedicated to young artists working in all disciplines. Located in the city centre, this venue also has a window display, known as Cecil’s Box, through which very young artists can make their work very visible to passers-by.

The Luxembourg section of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) became very active once it had acquired a display window in central Luxembourg: an old newspaper kiosk. Its members, most of whom are journalists, have often boosted the visibility of young artists by displaying their work for the first time there. Justine Blau (b. 1977), Stina Fisch and Mik Muhlen (b. 1984) used it as a display case. The Plug (AKA David Brognon) and Stéphanie Rollin used it as a form of visual art, as did Armand Quetsch. Paul Kirps (b. 1968), Max Mertens (b. 1982) and Gilles Pegel (b. 1981) used it as a form of installation. Lastly, Christian Aschman (b. 1966) exhibited photographs of the kiosk itself there before its demolition. Some of these artists have gone on to enjoy international success, for example Brognon (b. 1978) and Rollin (b. 1980), whose first significant exhibition took place in 2020 at the MAC VAL gallery, near Paris.

Brognon Rollin_L’avant dernière version de la réalité _MAC VAL

The driving force provided by private galleries

There have been gallerists in Luxembourg since the 19th century. One example is publisher/printer Pierre Brück, who was involved in the tradition of producing art books, which is continued by organisations such as the gallery/publisher Schortgen.

Luxembourg’s first gallerist in the modern sense of the term was Jean Aulner, who opened the Galerie de Luxembourg in the second half of the 20th century. He was an ardent advocate of Luxembourg artists, for example sculptor Charles Kohl (1929-2016), whose exhibition at Villa Vauban has recently put him in the spotlight. Aulner introduced both Luxembourg artists and international art to an audience largely made up of private collectors. From the 1980s onwards, it is noticeable that excellent work by several women gallerists set them apart; Lea Gredt, Christiane Worré, Martine Schneider and Erna Hécey have run exhibitions by Luxembourg artists mentioned above and by top-level foreign artists.

The context at the time was favourable: the national and foreign banks that swelled the Grand Duchy’s finance industry in the 1980s and 1990s bought art to supplement or enrich their collections, and even held their own exhibitions (Banque de Luxembourg, Banque Internationale à Luxembourg and Banque Générale du Luxembourg). The European Investment Bank was particularly important, as it has an exceptional contemporary art collection. Another big player was Banque et Caisse d’Épargne de l’État, which has not only organised numerous exhibitions on photography, but has also bought historic prints, by Edward Steichen in particular. Marita Ruiter of Galerie Clairefontaine does noteworthy work in this specialism too.

These days, there are international galleries in Luxembourg: the Ceysson Gallery (now Ceysson-Bénétière) and the Zidoun-Bossuyt Gallery. Of particular significance in the Luxembourg contemporary art landscape is the Nosbaum-Reding Gallery: for 20 years, it has consistently been doing remarkable work, exhibiting pieces by Luxembourg artists and major international players. In 2015, Alex Reding established Luxembourg’s leading contemporary art fair: Luxembourg Art Week.

Stéphane Ackermann has moved abroad, while Erna Hécey, who lived in Brussels for a while, has returned to Luxembourg. Contemporary art galleries targeting the general public have recently opened: the Valerius Gallery and the Fellner Contemporary Gallery, which has committed to exhibiting only Luxembourg artists. Lastly, the Art Work Circle platform enables contemporary artists to offer their work for sale online.

Portrait of Painter’s Son Robert in Sailor’s Attire (1923) by Corneille Lentz at Villa Vauban Museum. Luxembourg, ©Christian Aschman Luxembourg

Art in public spaces and the per cent for art in public commissioning

Some 20th-century artists producing classical sculptures are mentioned above: Claus Cito, who produced the Gëlle Frâ remembrance monument and the bas-reliefs at the National Resistance Museum in Esch-sur-Alzette; and Lucien Wercollier, who is considered the most important Luxembourg sculptor of the second half of the 20th century and created the National Monument of Resistance and Deportation. An example of a sculptor who is more anecdotic in his stylistic expression, but very popular, is Will Lofy (b. 1937), the artist behind Hämmelsmarch, which depicts a traditional local festival on Place du Puits-Rouge, on Luxembourg City’s Grand-Rue in the 1980s, and the statue in honour of Grand-Duchess Charlotte, in Place Clairefontaine, Luxembourg City. The sculptor Bertand Ney was also commissioned to produce several fountains in public spaces by the Municipality of Luxembourg City. Classic modern sculptures by internationally known artists Henry Moore (1898-1986) and Bernar Venet (b. 1941) have always been universally popular.

Luxembourg’s 1995 stint as European Capital of Culture was again a major step in terms of the reception of contemporary works in public spaces, this time because of part of the public’s did not understand the Nana by visual artist Niki de Saint-Phalle (1930-2002) when it was installed. In 2001, Croatian feminist visual artist Sanja Ivekovic (b. 1949) caused a scandal with Lady Rosa of Luxembourg, as part of the exhibition Luxembourg – les Luxembourgeois. Consensus et passions bridées. Lady Rosa of Luxembourg was a reinterpretation of Claus Cito’s Gëlle Frâ, the monument to those killed fighting during the First World War, which had been knocked down during Luxembourg’s incorporation into the Third Reich, then found years later and put back on its pedestal, so restoring national pride. Ivekovic’s reinterpretation of Gëlle Frâ as a visibly pregnant representation of early 20th-century Marxist philosopher Rosa Luxemburg with a range of provocative inscriptions on the pedestal was taken as an insult by part of the population. Also in 2001, the exhibition Sous les ponts, le long de la rivière... was better received. It linked Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain, the event organiser, with Fort Thüngen, the site of Mudam. It was organised again in 2005, this time along the Pétrusse River valley. These open-air art routes offered installations that played with the spirit of the location; the installations were by artists from in- and outside Luxembourg, and were more readily accepted by the general public.

The Kirchberg Fund, a public body responsible for city planning on the Kirchberg Plateau in Luxembourg City since the early 1960s, was a pioneer in the installation of artworks in public spaces. In respect of the per cent for art in the 1990s, it was able to make major companies setting up in the country fund a monumental sculpture by Richard Serra (b. 1939) at the entrance to the Kirchberg Plateau, floating sculptures by Marta Pan (1923-2008) in the lake in the central park and stelæ by Ulrich Rückriem (b. 1938) along the route of the old Roman road crossing Kirchberg; in 2009, a Su-Mei Tse piece representing an open-doored birdcage made of neon lights was installed in the gardens of a set of office buildings. As early as the 1980s, however, a footpath was dotted with works by a disciple of Lucien Wercollier called Liliane Heidelberger (1935-2019), by Hermann and Valentiny, and by Willem J. A. Bouter (1936-2000).

Since then, the Kirchberg Fund has moved on to forms of expression other than sculptures on pedestals. It has organised invitation-only contests with particular specifications tailored to certain public buildings or spaces. The result is that, in Kirchberg, you can now see works by contemporary visual artists, such as the electronic clock by Trixi Weis (b. 1967) on the façade of the Kirchberg Fund building, or the mural by the graphic designer Paul Kirps on the building being temporarily used by the European Commission secretariat.

Dendrite, the staircase viewpoint by Canadian artist Michel De Broin (b. 1970), was installed in Kirchberg Central Park in 2016, in response to a specification to produce a piece to complement the park’s hedge maze. The Kirchberg Fund then chose to work in partnership with Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain on an exhibition in Central Park based on Dendrite called 1 + 1, taking place every two years. They are participatory, playful, experimental installations: Recto-Verso, by Luxembourg graphic designers Charles Wennig (b. 1972) and Laurent Daubach (b. 1969) in 2017; Slow Teleport by US visual artists Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley in 2019; and Laby-Foot by French visual artist Benedetto Bufalino (b. 1982) in 2021.

Luxembourg’s excellence in respect of the per cent for art is surely down to the Public Building Administration, which dedicates 1% of the cost of constructing the public buildings that it commissions to visual artworks. There are quite a number of examples from the 1960s to 1980s and more recently: the wall mosaic in the State-run spa in Mondorf-les-Bains (François Gillen, 1914-1997); the decorative panel on aluminium in the European Parliament building hemicycle (Joseph Probst); the mural at the Laboratoire de l’État in Luxembourg City (Will Dahlem, 1916-1986); the metal wall sculpture at the Echternach retirement home (Bettina Scholl-Sabatini, 1942); and the stained glass window in Dudelange Town Hall (Frantz Kinnen, 1905-1979). As regards State-run buildings, contemporary works have become tactile, playful, visual and even audible, such as a piece of music for the lift in the Geenzeblé retirement home in Wiltz, produced in 2018 by Michel Bananes Jr. and Benjamin Dufour. A piece of landscaping outside the building will constitute the per cent for art around the new National Library of Luxembourg in Kirchberg.

Audience-engagement media

As part of their exhibitions, all museums in the Grand Duchy organise workshops for children. They also engage with their audiences through a variety of media. The Lëtzebuerg City Museum offers the public audio guides and tablets. The MNHA took advantage of its closure during the first COVID lockdown to offer virtual guided tours of its exhibitions, permanent and temporary. Another medium used by museums is catalogues to mark the holding of exhibitions – of works by one artist or by several – like those recently issued by Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain for the Marco Godinho and Filip Markiewicz exhibitions. The majority of museums, whether national or municipal, have libraries available to the public and/or websites listing their artists, collections and exhibitions.

Baltzer Bisagno_LEAP ©Lynn Theisen

Information and press from State-funded galleries

The body representing Luxembourg’s seven national museums provides information on the programming in national and municipal museums and galleries. Every year since 2008, it has also been organising the Night of the Museums, a fun event that brings together museum lovers and enthusiasts, and the general public, putting the cultural life and diversity of the capital’s museums into the spotlight. In its monthly newsletter on what is going on in Luxembourg City, the local authority publishes an exhaustive table and short articles detailing the main public exhibitions.

All Luxembourg dailies (Luxemburger Wort, the Grand Duchy’s oldest, Tageblatt and Le Quotidien) and weeklies (Le Jeudi, now defunct, WOXX and D’Lëtzebuerger Land), plus public-service broadcaster radio 100,7 and main television channel RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg all report on major news stories about museums and galleries, which includes artist-profile features. Their coverage plays a not-insignificant role in increasing the visibility of Luxembourg’s visual arts.

Marianne Brausch, member of AICA Luxembourg and freelance culture journalist
June 2021