In 2020 Switzerland held the fifth largest share of the global art market behind the United States of America, China, the United Kingdom and France. That is reason enough for a closer look at the history and evolution of its role. Past research into the art trade has largely focused on the events of the 1930s and 1940s and recent developments or else on the legal framework. To date there has been no examination of the Swiss art trade over an extended period of history, even though Switzerland’s function as an international hub emerged early due to its central location in Europe, its well-networked relationships with neighbouring countries and its trade-friendly legislation. This gap in the research will be addressed by the four-year project “Players in the Swiss Art Trade”.
As the title suggests, the research will revolve specifically around the players – individuals, institutions, platforms – who make up the art trade. The focus lies primarily on trading in fine art from the early modern era until the present day. Early centres of the Swiss art trade were the cities of Basel, Bern and Geneva, joined in the course of the 19th century by Zurich and later by Lausanne and Lucerne.
The findings from this research project will feed into three different open access publication formats: 1) a collaborative monograph on the history of the art trade in Switzerland, 2) a database of players in the Swiss art trade, which will be based technically and to some extent thematically on the SIK-ISEA database and integrated into the Institute’s research portal, and 3) three dissertation projects by junior academics devoted to two different periods, both of which are pivotal to the Swiss art trade (Leonie Singer: “The 17th-century trade with books and prints in Switzerland”, Sina Knopf: “Situating the art dealer Hans Wendland in the Nazi art market network”, Simone-Tamara Nold: “Foreign private collections in Swiss museums: archive and museum deposits and their significance in the Swiss art trade of the 1930s and 1940s”).