There’s something brewing in the heart of the Swiss mountains. Nestled away in the sleepy town of Susch, with a population of just 200, is a unique architectural undertaking that drills down directly into the rocks of the craggy landscape. This is the Muzeum Susch, which unites the remnants of a medieval monastery with a former brewery and the caves beneath. This remarkable space, created for the celebration and promotion of the arts, highlights the geology and history of its unique surroundings, and seamlessly brings together old and new. Permanent sculptural installations by names such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Monika Sosnowska, Mirosław Bałka and Heidi Bucher are placed around the many vaults and tunnelled spaces, carefully set in dialogue with their seriously special surroundings.
Collector Grażyna Kulczyk, one of the richest women in Poland, is the brains behind this space—and the financial backer. This is her dream brought to life, from the unique architecture (designed by Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellm) to the female-focused programme. A longtime collector of women artists, Kulczyk aims to further their recognition and visibility through the curation of Muzeum Susch. The museum opened its doors for the first time this January with a group show titled A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, featuring thirty female artists—including Romanian artist Geta Brătescu and the US-born, Berlin-based painter Dorothy Iannone. Currently on show is a solo exhibition by Swiss spiritualist artist Emma Kunz, in collaboration with London’s Serpentine Gallery. Her “automatic drawings” and intuitive geometric forms are the ideal accompaniment to the dramatic forms of the gallery’s architecture, inviting quiet reflection in a setting that feels almost religious: a temple to art.
Susch can be reached by train, on a railway line that is now a Unesco World Heritage attraction. It might not look like much from the outside, with the pretty white facade, typical of the local landscape of the Engadin Valley, overlooking the sparkling River Inn, but step inside and prepare to be blown away by the seemingly endless expanse of rooms. Additional vaulted basements were excavated directly from the mountainside as part of the museum’s construction, resulting in 9,000 tonnes of rock being blasted out. Part Swiss mountain chalet, part underground lair, it is a behemoth that shouldn’t make any sense at all, and yet the sensitive work of the museum’s architects harmonizes the space and brings a powerful sense of calm. Muzeum Susch is the latest in a growing art scene rooted in the surrounding mountains; Hauser and Wirth recently joined the local area with a new outpost in neighbouring St Moritz.
The Muzeum Susch offers a welcome respite from the distractions of everyday life. While the pressures of the hustle and bustle of the city can make the focus for contemporary art difficult to find, in the Engadin Valley time has an altogether different way of standing still. Interior and exterior blend together freely here, with floor to ceiling windows easing the connection between architecture and nature. It comes as little surprise that a burnout clinic is the museum’s only major neighbour in the town, where patients seeking relief from the relentless daily grind come to relax and recover. The museum presents art as more than just something to be looked at; here, it takes on almost spiritual qualities, endowed with the power of healing. There is a quiet majesty to this place, and there is peace to be found within its centuries-old foundations.