One of Poland’s richest women builds new art museum in stunning 12th century Swiss monastery

Work is almost finished at the Susch Museum in Switzerland, which will house Grażyna Kulczyk’s collection of Central and East European art. Muzeum Susch

In the Engadin valley in Switzerland, somewhere between Davos and St Moritz, a museum is being built on the site of a 12th century monastery and a nearby brewery.

A curious construction, it weaves stark, modern designs into the medieval structures and even into the mountains themselves.

Located in the picturesque town of Susch, nestled between the mountains and Inn river, the museum – called Muzeum Susch - will house a collection of modern art from Poland and more broadly Central and Eastern Europe. 

The project is the initiative of Grażyna Kulczyk, the 30th richest person in Poland, an avid art collector and a businesswoman who wants to explore the disruption of power structures and display works that would often find themselves marginalized.

Kulczyk told TFN: “Artists, movements and ideas that to date have been marginalised or left outside of the canon will move centre stage and be given new opportunities to be heard. In particular, though not exclusively, female artists will be offered new contexts and positions, mirroring a central thrust of the Grażyna Kulczyk collection.”

Designed by Swiss architects Lukas Voellmy and Chasper Schmidlin, the museum building – a 12th century brewery – was expanded with underground exhibition spaces. Muzeum Susch
Just like Peggy Guggenheim in Venice, Dr. Albert Barnes in Philadelphia or Charles Saatchi in London, Kulczyk’s ambition goes beyond simply exhibiting her, admittedly remarkable, collection. She explained: “Muzeum Susch will show both site-specific permanent artworks and a regular programme of curated, temporary exhibitions. 

“The programme will also offer an annual discursive symposium, Disputaziuns Susch; an academic institute supporting research on gender issues in art and science, Instituto Susch, in collaboration with Institut Kunst, Basel; and Acziun Susch, an extension of the existing performative programme in Poznań, Poland, Old Brewery New Dance, that for almost 20 years has striven to popularise, promote and present the art of contemporary choreography. 

“These activities are interconnected by means of a residency programme, Temporars Susch, which invites artists, curators, choreographers, writers and researchers to the idyllic alpine region, and offers the potential to engage with its environs over an extended time frame.” 

The sprawling Alpine valley of Engadin has long appealed to artists. Rainer Maria Rilke and Friedrich Nietzsche were known to frequent it.Muzeum Susch

While the exact catalogue of the collection is still kept under wraps, judging by the previous exhibitions of Kulczyk’s artworks, a variety of well-established Polish and international names can be expected, including: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Mirosław Bałka, Tadeusz Kantor, Katarzyna Kozyra, Jacek Malczewski, Bruno Schulz, Alina Szapocznikow, and Andrzej Wróblewski.

The grand opening is scheduled for January 2nd, 2019. Thanks to the extensive renovations and expansions done by Swiss architects Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy, the 25 exhibition rooms covering 1500m2 are ready and waiting. 

“The first of a number of site-specific artworks are already being installed, which will play a part in shaping the evolving character and distinctive layout of the space,” Kulczyk said.

As she explained, the organizers are not worried about Muzeum Susch being too remote and obscure for visitors: “The Engadine is a frequented touristic destination, during both the winter and summer seasons. 

Grażyna Kulczyk, the powerhouse behind the Susch Museum project, has a knack for mixing business and art.Muzeum Susch

“Within the alpine region and it’s cultural highlights in nearby and neighbouring Milano, Turin, Bregenz, Chur, Davos and St Moritz, Muzeum Susch will become part of a landscape rather than a solitary spot. 

“The Muzeum will also seek to share content via its digital channels to reach those who live further afield and are unable to visit in person.”