Geneva has a rich cultural life. It is also the city in Europe which devotes the largest part of its budget to culture (more than 20%). The City of Geneva is distinguished by an extremely rich leisure offer. Whether you are passionate about history, admirers of nature or aspiring musicians, you will undoubtedly find what you are looking for in Geneva. For the City, guaranteeing this quality offer to the population is a priority.
Its numerous museums, its libraries (in particular the Library of Geneva), the Grand Théâtre and the Orchester de la Suisse romande have greatly contributed to its influence. For twenty years or so, a new type of urban cultural space has been created in disused buildings and preserved as monuments such as the Halles de l’Île, the Factory or the Maison des Arts du Grütli.
For several decades, Geneva has seen the development of an important underground scene, marked by the appearance of numerous squats and self-managed sites dedicated to an alternative culture recognized more or less officially. L ‘ Usine, Artamis, le Rhino or le Goulet, for example, have long played an important role in the musical, theatrical and cinematographic programming of the city.
In Geneva, culture has been a municipal competence since the middle of the 19th century: support for artists, development of major institutions. The City of Geneva has direct financial responsibility for a large number of institutions in the fields of museums and the performing arts, as well as various cultural events. In addition, it makes many places available to cultural actors, foundations or associations, and supports their activities through regular or ad hoc grants. It contributes financially to the operation of independent theaters, dance or concert halls, urban cultural spaces – located in its territory. It is also the municipality which directly finances or subsidizes most artistic productions as well as numerous one-off events offered by cultural circles.
The City of Geneva pays particular attention to all its audiences by implementing measures capable of removing the financial brake on access to culture, by developing procedures allowing the integration of people from multiple socio-cultural origins and by creating means not to disadvantage those who suffer from a handicap.
The municipality owns sixteen museums, among which the art and history museums – art and history museum, Tavel house and Rath museum – form the largest museum complex in Switzerland with its eight museums and their million objects, its iconographic center, its library, its research laboratory and its restoration workshops.
Next to it are the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and their herbaria, bringing together some six million samples, the ethnographic museum and its annex at Conches, the natural history museum, the Ariana museum – Swiss ceramics museum and glass – the gallery of plaster casts of the University of Geneva (the oldest collection of casts of Switzerland) or the Institute and museum Voltaire, internationally known for its collection of documents from the xviii th century.
There are around twenty private museums, subsidized – like the Mamco – or entirely private – like the Patek Philippe museum and the International Museum of the Reformation.
The Musée du Petit Palais in Geneva, an important collection of impressionist works and works from the Paris school; Opened in 1968, it closed on the death of its founder Oscar Ghez in 1998 and does not seem to be about to reopen, its collections circulate regularly as part of exhibitions in Switzerland and abroad.
Municipal museums and private museums are particularly numerous in Geneva. Their offer and their diversity cover a heritage of inestimable richness. From botany to archeology or the fine arts, from the history of the Reformation to natural history or from ceramics to ethnography, the Geneva museums tackle the main areas of knowledge and the arts. Geneva can boast in this area of a remarkably dense offer and a very rich and diversified program.
Alongside their benchmark exhibitions, which showcase the emblematic objects and works of their collections, the Geneva museums offer a rich program of temporary exhibitions, visits and activities of all kinds to be discovered on the museesdegeneve site. ch
The Cultural Trails from one museum to another allow you to discover museums in a different way. The museums are grouped there by district, the walk from one to the other being a pretext for a multitude of edifying and entertaining discoveries. Monuments, public works of art or even historical anecdotes and winks come to animate a stroll between past and present which gives to understand the evolution of the city through the centuries.
Every year, in May, Museum Night allows regulars to experience their visit from a different angle, and those curious to discover new places in a joyful and colorful atmosphere. Each edition revolves around a theme inspiring the programming of museums which, on this occasion, deploy treasures of creativity to offer their visitors new and exciting experiences.
So that these offers can truly reach the greatest number of people, the City is proposing a number of accessibility measures, in particular with adapted pricing policies. In the museums of the City of Geneva, the spaces reserved for the permanent collections can be visited free of charge. Every first Sunday of the month, temporary exhibitions are also free. People with modest income can use their culture checkbook. For people with disabilities, permanent or temporary, the City also offers access measures such as visits adapted to their needs. In addition, since October 2017, the Cédille association has developed the Culture accessible Genève site in order to promote cultural events accessible to audiences with sensory, physical or mental disabilities.
In Geneva, most performance venues are owned by public authorities. While some are real institutions, others, geared towards independent companies, also manage to set up full seasons. Still others have no artistic direction, but are hired to local companies.
Ernest Ansermet and the Orchester de la Suisse romande, the Geneva Chamber Orchestra, the Grand Théâtre, the Victoria Hall, the Contrechamps Ensemble, Armin Jordan, the Usine, Artamis and the Black Cat have made and are doing the reputation of the city.
The ethnomusicology workshops promote dances and music from around the world. The AMR is a musical center dedicated to jazz and improvised music.
The Institute of Arab and Mediterranean Cultures (ICAM) organizes concerts and exhibitions dedicated to Arab and Mediterranean culture. Geneva is also home to theatrical companies that were born there or have decided to set up there.
With the exception of the Grand Théâtre ballet, which has a rehearsal space and a performance hall, the Geneva dance companies do not have fixed halls. Defended by the Association for Contemporary Dance, they campaign for the creation of a House of Dance.
Visual arts in Geneva
In Geneva, the figurative arts can be based on a concerted and ambitious museum policy which promotes synergy between various cultural institutions and art centers. The constellation of festivals dedicated to cinema that take place in Geneva contributes to the effervescence of audiovisual creation.
The visual arts benefit from a very dynamic scene in Geneva. The City is participating in it through several actions, the top of the list of which is the work carried out by the FMAC and by cultural institutions, which joins the offer of spaces and art centers. Led by leading cultural institutions – such as MAMCO (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) and the Contemporary Art Center – supported by the many gallery owners and managers of passionate and enterprising art centers, the scene visual arts has focused in recent years in the Quartier des Bains, around the Contemporary Art Building.
The presence of art in public space tends to promote the diversity of contemporary artistic experiments, all generations, practices and temporalities combined. Perennial works, ephemeral experiences, artistic event programs and events thus offer citizens rich and renewed encounters with art and the urban environment in a spirit of transdisciplinarity. The FMAC, attached to the Department of Culture and Sport, fulfills a dual objective. The first is to support and promote artists active and active in Geneva, in particular by acquiring works and building a public collection. The second is to develop and enhance the presence of art in the public space.
With its Contemporary Art Fund, rich in a collection of 300 works of art located in public spaces, the City of Geneva pursues an active and ambitious policy of ordering and acquiring works. NEON PARALLAX, for example, is an ambitious public art project carried out around the edge of the Plainpalais plain, commissioned by the City of Geneva and produced in collaboration with the Cantonal Contemporary Art Fund (FCAC). All of this public heritage of contemporary art can be viewed on the FMAC’s online catalog.
ArtGenève, internationally renowned contemporary art fair, which is held in January. In collaboration with the City of Geneva and the participating galleries, artgenève leaves its walls every year with artgenève / sculptures, an exhibition by the lake and in the city.
Proclamation of the City of Geneva scholarships for young contemporary creation, each year, in September, followed by an exhibition of the nominees’ works at the Center for Contemporary Art.
BIG, biennial of independent art spaces (June);
the Nuit des Bains, organized by the Quartier des Bains, attracts several times a year a crowd of enthusiasts and curious by making them discover the new exhibitions of the various art galleries and by giving them free access to the exhibitions of the Mamco and the Center d ‘Contemporary art;
The Geneva Contemporary Art Weekend brings together, in November, the associations of the Quartier des Bains and Geneva Contemporary Art to offer the possibility of crisscrossing the city to meet galleries and institutions active in the field.
Painting and sculpture
Geneva saw developing a school miniaturist importance to xviii th century, notably frequented by famous Aboriginal painter Jean-Étienne Liotard in its early stages, before becoming one of the pastel masters in Europe, or the portrait Elizabeth Terroux and Henriette Rath. Other artists have devoted themselves to history painting, such as Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours, or to alpine landscapes (Pierre-Louis de La Rive, François Diday). Representatives of the avant-garde movements are fewer (Alice Bailly).
It was in Geneva that the designer, painter, art critic and politician Rodolphe Töpffer was born and lived, considered to be the inventor of the comic strip, of which Father Wolfgang Adam Tœpffer was already one of the first cartoonists. Other artists have contributed to the rise of contemporary Geneva comics, such as Pierre Wazem, Tom Tirabosco, Albertine, Zep, Guillaume Long or Adrienne Barman.
On the international scene, the history of Geneva sculpture is largely dominated by the figure of James Pradier. Among other artists, we will remember John-Étienne Chaponnière, who trained in particular in the Pradier workshop, and Jean Jaquet, a sculptor-decorator very active in the Geneva region. In contemporary art, we should mention the installations of John M. Armleder, Sylvie Fleury and Manolo Torres.
Comics and illustration
The rise of comics in Geneva has benefited from a long and illustrious history that begins with the Geneva author Rodolphe Töpffer. This heritage has continued to grow over time thanks to the authors, publishing houses, bookstores and art schools of Geneva. Listed in the intangible cultural heritage of Geneva at UNESCO in 2012, this living tradition has been proudly supported by the City of Geneva since 1997, in particular via the Töpffer Prizes.
Considered the father of comics, the Geneva author and theoretician Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846), initiated, in the first half of the 20th century, a tradition which has managed to endure thanks to a fertile ground for enthusiasts. From Ceppi and Poussin in the 70s to Tirabosco or Kalonji via Zep and his famous “Titeuf”, the ninth art of Geneva has, over time, been able to rely on leading figures who have helped to create an active and renewed scene and to deeply anchor comics in Geneva culture.
For twenty years, the City of Geneva has celebrated and supported the development of comics through the Töpffer Prizes. Each year, these prizes reward the best Geneva and international comic books by awarding a prize of 10,000 Swiss francs for each category. Since 2010, the canton has joined the operation by offering a Prize for young comics and from 2017, the 3 prizes will be awarded jointly. These Prizes also revolve around the offer of the Library of Geneva (where we find the Töpffer collections) and that of the Municipal Libraries which program events related to comics throughout the year.
An important role has also been played by informed publishers and gallery owners, as well as by the impetus provided by art schools. In September 2017, Geneva became the first Swiss city to benefit from a higher school for comics and illustration. This sector thus offers new professional training to its budding artists and guarantees a promising succession to its long tradition.
Endowed with prestigious festivals and a large number of cinemas, Geneva is a cinephile city. Its multicultural spirit is perfectly reflected in its offer in the field of the 7th art. Its inhabitants can easily find themselves in the diversity of proposals, formulated for different audiences and articulated around very varied themes.
Throughout the year, Geneva’s cinematographic offer benefits from an extraordinary variety thanks to the various cinemas as well as the programming of numerous festivals presenting productions off the beaten track. Specific sections dedicated to seniors and children also punctuate the annual calendar which includes a plethora of free events. The City of Geneva helps by providing subsidies to festivals without forgetting the aid given to cinematographic distribution. It supports, for example, two structures, the Cinémas du Grütli and the Sputnik, which show films that do not find a taker in the big commercial circuits.
In spring: The International Oriental Film Festival (FIFOG) promotes diversity and intercultural dialogue exploring the more original cinematographies of East and West.
During summer: Cinétransat offers film screenings, often cult, as well as outdoor activities at the Perle du Lac. Allianz cinema is an open-air cinema installed at the water’s edge, at Port Noir
In autumn: Animatou reveals the richness of Swiss and international animated short films and includes a section dedicated to children. The festival also organizes Animation Wednesdays throughout the year at the Center d’Art Contemporain de Genève for children from 4 years old. The Queer Festival “Everybody’s Perfect” addresses the issue of gender, which extends to notions of fundamental freedoms and inclusion of all minorities.
In winter: The Film Festival and International Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) programs films followed by quality debates to denounce all violations against human rights. The Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF) explores the links between cinema, television and new forms of digital creation. Proposals for children are also included in the program. Filmar en America latina offers a rich showcase of Latin American cinema with a hundred titles, fictions, documentaries as well as a recent section for the youngest, Filmarcito. The Black Movie Festival, an international festival of independent films, is developing an innovative and uninhibited program through films mostly unseen in Switzerland. It comes in its Petit Black Movie formula for the pleasure of the little ones.
Photograph from 1900. Reconstruction of a puppet theater scene by Fred Boissonnas. In order to better preserve its photographic heritage and to support new artists active and active in the field of photography, the City of Geneva has vigorously reinforced its encouragement to the 8th art. From black and white shots of Asia seen by Alfred Bertrand to adventures in the areas of tension of Laurence Deonna, the furrow of Geneva’s photographic tradition has been traced by outstanding figures who, thanks to their adventurous spirit and their desire to see and tell the world, have made a capital contribution to the photographic report.
Aware of its prestigious history and of the role played by Geneva institutions, the City of Geneva has made photography one of the cardinal points of its cultural policy thanks to new initiatives launched in 2016. Throughout the year the calendar is now punctuated by numerous photographic appointments. In 2017, photography is celebrated thanks to the night of the photo, ” No’Photo “, a free and abundant event in various places of the city center.
The 50JPG event is a triennial event dedicated to photography and initiated by the Geneva Photography Center (CPG) in 2003. It includes exhibitions, colloquiums and conferences.
The promotion of photography in Geneva is also materialized through an annual grant of 25,000 francs, awarded for the realization of a documentary photographic project. In addition, the Department of Culture and Sport gives a mandate annually to a photographer to conduct a photographic survey dealing with a theme, through different angles, over a period of three years. In addition to the collections exhibited by the institutions, photography takes to the streets and regularly invests the public space in order to reach a wide audience who discover both the photographic medium and the city from a different angle.
Public institutions, museums, private art centers as well as galleries regularly present exhibitions that reflect the dynamism and talent of contemporary photography. With the valuable work of photographers Geneva-es self-es, these entities contribute to the influence of photography in Geneva. Many art galleries are dedicated to photography in Geneva. To find out their schedule and opening date, see the Art in Geneva page.
Performing arts in Geneva
In the field of performing arts, the City of Geneva pursues the dual objective of creating conditions and infrastructures adapted to accommodate cutting-edge contemporary creation while preserving the local creative pool. In the near future, dance, music and theater will take advantage of new places to offer live shows. These new spaces will also serve as centers of confluence for the precious energies injected by the various companies and troops as well as the many groups active in these disciplines:
The City of Geneva has several cultural stages, including three performance halls to which it gives very specific identities. Because if the Victoria Hall has always been devoted to classical music, the functions of the Casino Theater or the Alhambra have evolved over the years. Production companies or individuals can rent these rooms for cultural events.
Among the traditional Geneva dishes, we can mention longeole, whose Geneva recipe includes rinds. Chocolate specialties also exist: Geneva garbage cans, paving stones, the Escalade pot filled with marzipan vegetables. The cardoon is a typical local vegetable that was the subject of an AOC.
Books and libraries
Geneva is a city that loves books. The municipality alone holds 9 million documents spread over 13 sites. Scientific and heritage, the libraries of the City of Geneva cover almost all areas of knowledge. This set plays an essential role in the conservation of the intellectual heritage of Geneva and delivers local services with access to reading for all.
The book is a basic cultural tool, which must be accessible to all. It is precisely for this purpose that the City of Geneva has developed a dense network of municipal libraries offering free of charge, in addition to the loan and advice service, a wide variety of activities for young and old: meetings with artists, tales, exhibitions. music, workshops, exhibitions, screenings and even editorial assistance sessions through a public writer.
To get as close as possible to the public, municipal library services also include bookmobiles, traveling libraries serving the entire canton, as well as home loans for the elderly and disabled living in the City of Geneva. In addition, the libraries are coming together to provide the InterroGE online service which provides reliable, free and personalized answers remotely, in less than three days, to the various questions of Internet users.
The Library of Geneva (BGE) consists of two million books on the most diverse subjects, arranged on nearly 60 km of shelves ! Formally incorporated in the wake of the founding of Calvin’s College and Academy in 1559, the BGE is historically the dean of the city’s cultural institutions. Its centers of excellence correspond to the highlights of the intellectual, cultural and religious history of Geneva.
La Musicale de la Bibliothèque de Genève is rich in a remarkable collection of printed music made up of 50,000 scores, titles from musical periodicals, booklets, as well as historical documents retracing musical life in Geneva.
The Voltaire Museum of the Geneva Library is located in the residence occupied by Voltaire between 1755 and 1760. It contains a library of around 25,000 volumes devoted to Voltaire and the 18th century, as well as a museum.
The Iconography Center of the Library of Geneva contains nearly 4 million images. It brings together under one roof, two collections: one, secular, made up of old iconographic collections from the Library of Geneva; the other, more recent, formed by the images collected by the documentary service of Old Geneva.
The largest art library in Switzerland, the Art and Archeology Library was founded in 1910. Its collections are made up of works from all artistic fields, from prehistory to contemporary times. It offers more than 450,000 books, including 80,000 exhibition catalogs, 80,000 auction catalogs, around 6,200 reviews, electronic and multimedia resources, as well as a very beautiful and precious collection of old books. and artists’ books.
Almost all the books, printed matter and newspapers, describing the plants of the world, specifying their distribution on the earth, cataloging them by country, region, studied by family, by genre, etc. are kept at the Conservatory and Botanical Garden Library. It is one of the three most important botanical libraries in the world.
The Ariana Museum library is the largest library devoted to ceramics and glass in Switzerland. Its collections are made up of more than 6,300 specialized works and 40 journals on the arts of fire, ceramics, porcelain, earthenware, stoneware, pottery, glass, stained glass, for the period from the 15th century to modern period.
The library of the Natural History Museum preserves, enriches and makes accessible the documentation relating to the research fields of the institution, namely zoology, geosciences and archaeozoology. Its collection consists of more than 70,000 monographs, 4,000 precious volumes, 4,000 geological and topographical maps, 2,200 periodical titles, 200,000 scientific articles and 185 linear meters of archival documents. It also includes the library of the association “Our birds” as well as the world library of bats. That of the History of Science Museumhas more than 13,000 monographs, including many old books, 12,000 brochures / reprints, 40 periodical titles, 500 manuscripts and 400 prints devoted to the history of science and technology, to the history of medicine and scientific instruments.
Nestled under the roof of the new MEG, the Marie Madeleine Lancoux Library offers a collection specializing in social and cultural anthropology, as well as on the cultures and arts of the five continents. Rich with nearly 60,000 documents, all media combined, it also keeps the Georges Amoudruz collection dedicated to the cultures of the Alpine arc and the Rhone valley. It is also the depository of the library of the Swiss Society of Americanists (SSA).
Since 1818, a chestnut tree on the promenade de la Treille has been used to determine the start of spring. It is the grasshopper who observes the tree and who notes the day of the arrival of the first bud. Le sautier then published a press release which was included in the local press.
The Thursday following the first Sunday in September, Geneva celebrates the Jeûne genevois. According to local tradition invalidated by historical research, this festival would commemorate the news of the Saint-Barthélemy massacre reported by the Huguenots who arrived in Geneva.
Each year, at the beginning of December, Geneva celebrates Escalade, which commemorates a battle in 1602 between the Genevans and the Savoyards.
Every year on December 31, a commemoration of the Geneva Restoration takes place, a consequence of the departure of the Napoleonic troops in 1813.
The performance halls, the Alhambra, the Casino Theater, the Victoria Hall, the Pitoëff Theater, the Maison des arts du Grütli;
The concerts Sunday at Victoria Hall;
The museums: the History Museum of Art (Art and History Museum, the Musée Rath, the Maison Tavel and the cabinet graphic arts), Ariana Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of the history of science, the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Ethnographic Museum;
The network of municipal libraries, the Library of Geneva and the Art and Archeology Library of the Museum of Art and History;
The annual events: the Fête de la Musique, the Music Festival in the summer, the Töpffer Comics Awards, the Berthoud, Lissignol, Chevalier-Galland Bursaries for young contemporary creation, Fanfare Weekend, Museums Night and biennial events: the Fury of Reading, Poetry in the City or the Night of Science.
Festivals and events
Many events take place throughout the year including:
International Motor Show (March)
International Fine Watchmaking Fair (March-April)
International Exhibition of Inventions (April)
Book and Press Fair (April-May)
International Business Aviation Show (May)
Take to arms of the Old Grenadiers of Geneva (April-May)
Geneva Marathon (May)
Feast of Hope (May)
Bol d’or (veil) (June)
Music Day (June)
Lake Parade (July)
Music in summer (July-August)
Geneva festivals (July-August)
Rowing around Lake Geneva (September)
La Bâtie-Festival de Genève (September)
WWE World Tour (September)
International North-South Media Festival (October)
Les Automnales (November)
L ‘ Escalade (December)
Christmas Cup (December)
International horse show (December)
International SuperCross Geneva (December)
Geneva Lux (December-January)
Culture for all
Accessibility measures have been put in place, so that culture can fully fulfill its integrative function by promoting dialogue and exchanges. Promote integration through culture. Integration must be understood in a broad sense, since it is a question of lifting the financial brake on the consumption of culture, of welcoming people of multiple socio-cultural origins and of not prettifying those with disabilities.
The events organized by the City are most often free, the summer period is particularly dense in various events: May in fanfares, The City is yours, Music Festival, Night of science, Music in summer festival, Fury of read, or Poetry in the city. The museums of the City of Geneva, numbering 12, open their doors wide on the first Sunday of each month, offering free access to visitors to their temporary exhibitions. Admission to the collections is free all year round.
The municipal libraries, present in all neighborhoods, are also freely available, whether for registration as a reader, or for consulting books. They organize a large number of free activities throughout the year for all audiences: storytelling, exhibitions, readings, workshops, etc.
Thanks to the “access to culture” credit, the Department of Culture offers reduced prices to certain categories of the population in order to encourage them to take advantage of Geneva’s significant cultural offer. This credit finances measures for young people, for the elderly as well as for people with modest incomes. Promoting access to culture for all audiences is one of the priority missions of the City of Geneva. As such, people with disabilities also benefit from special attention.
The Museums Pass brings together 16 Geneva museums to offer visitors a range of advantages. Sold at a price of 40 francs and valid for one year from its first use, the Museums Pass is an invitation to multiply museum experiences. It is on sale in the ticket offices of partner museums, as well as from the Department of Culture and Sport and at the Geneva City Information Center.
Indispensable to removing socio-cultural obstacles, specific measures to meet the public are being developed in museums and libraries, but also in certain major institutions such as the Grand Théâtre. Reception agents provide information and guide the public. Cultural and scientific mediators accompany visitors in their discovery of the cultural content of the various events; they develop all kinds of means to orchestrate the meeting between audiences and artistic creations or natural and scientific phenomena while promoting exchanges with cultural professionals whether they are artists, researchers, authors, managers, restaurateurs, producers…