Deep in the Swiss Alps, buried below the remnants of a 12th-century monastery in the town of Susch, is Switzerland’s newest private art museum. Muzeum Susch opened to the public on January 2 and is expected to bring international attention to a village where the population tops out at 200.

The museum, designed by the Zurich-based Voellmy Schmidlin Architektur (founded by Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy), is the personal project of Grażyna Kulczyk, Poland’s richest woman; she’s the founder of the museum, has fully funded its construction, and the institution will display pieces from Kulczyk’s private collection. This isn’t the first time Kulczyk has attempted to get her museum off (and under) the ground. As the Wall Street Journal noted, Kulczyk had attempted to bring a Tadao Ando–designed collection to Poznan, Poland, in 2008, and later to Warsaw. Both attempts fell through.

Photo of a stone tunnel

It took over a year to tunnel through the mountainous amphibolite on site, and some of the excavated stone was used in the terrazzo flooring elsewhere. (Studio Stefano Graziani, Muzeum Susch, Art Stations Foundation CH)

The completed complex in Susch spans a collection of five existing buildings, most historically protected, which restricted how thoroughly their exteriors could be modified. As such, the two central buildings are connected via an underground passage that took over a year to dig through the mountainous terrain. Muzeum Susch holds over 16,000 square feet of gallery space for rotating and permanent exhibitions, as well as Instituto Susch, an academic institute that will host lectures on gender and art. Acziun Susch, also located on the campus, will instruct on modern choreography.

Photo of a gallery interior

Remnants of the extant historic buildings and surrounding stone intrude into the white-walled gallery spaces. (Studio Stefano Graziani, Muzeum Susch, Art Stations Foundation CH)

The area’s natural rock formations have been highlighted as heavily as the existing architecture and poke through the staid gallery interiors throughout. A grotto near the museum’s entrance has been left exposed and will serve as a backdrop for future site-specific installations. Kulczyk’s ambitions for the museum aren’t finished, as she recently announced the purchase of a sixth building for the institution.

The museum’s inaugural show, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, has a pointed focus on the work of women artists internationally. The exhibition, curated by Kasia Redzisz, will feature work of many types, from paintings to sculpture to multidisciplinary art and will run through June 30, 2019.

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