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Julius Bissier, Malgré tout – LBI 51, 1961 • Museo comunale di arte moderna, Collezione Comune di Ascona. (c) VG Bild-Kunst r.V, 2009

The Roundhouse of International Spirits

17 January – 15 March 2009

In this exhibition, Julius Bissier’s delicately balanced watercolours were included alongside striking reliefs and collages by Hans Arp and Italo Valenti, painted reliefs by Ben Nicholson, paintings by Mark Tobey and Hans Richter and sculptures by Arp. Work by Raffael Benazzi was included to represent the impact of these artists on a younger Swiss generation.

This event has passed. FREE, come along

The Roundhouse of International Spirits was organised by Kettle’s Yard in collaboration with Museo comunale d’arte moderna Ascona and Servizi culturali Città di Locarno, and supported by Alfred Harrison and The Henry Moore Foundation.

This exhibition was the only showing in the UK before it then travelled to Switzerland.


Hans Arp ~ Raffael Benazzi ~ Julius Bossier ~ Ben Nicholson ~ Hans Richter ~ Mark Tobey ~ Italo Valenti


Historical background

The landscape … is entirely magical and with the kind of visual poetry which I would like to find in my painting

Ben nicholson

The natural beauty of the Ticino, around the famous tourist spots of lakes Maggiore and Lugano, had long attracted artists and intellectuals. Writing to a friend in 1962, German painter Julius Bissier described the area of Ascona and Locarno, where he was then living, as ‘the roundhouse of international spirits’.

By the early 1960s a remarkable group of artists had settled in the area. Hans Arp and Hans Richter returned, having first visited in the 1910s. Julius Bissier, Italo Valenti, Ben Nicholson and Felicitas Vogler arrived in search of better living conditions and new inspiration. The American painter Mark Tobey, based in Basel and a friend of many of these artists, regularly visited. The Locarnese, as it is known locally, became a thriving intellectual hotspot, with a strong sense of community – so much so that Arp liked to refer to it as ‘el kibbutz’. These artists shared ideas and swapped works and the period produced rich results.

Ben Nicholson, 1967 (an almost green circle), 1967 • Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. (c) Angela Verren Taunt, 2009

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