La Nuit des Bains, organized three times a year in Geneva’s Quartier des Bains has become a hugely popular affair where visitors can discover new art in the atmosphere of a street party. There is a whiff of youthful sophistication as visitors weave in and out of the galleries, some sipping a glass of wine along the way.
When Geneva’s Modern art museum (MAMCO) was opened in a disused factory 20 years ago, the semi-industrial neighbourhood became a magnet for a constellation of art galleries and editors, many of them attracted from abroad. Known as the Quartier des Bains, an association of the same name was founded in 2004 by two established art merchants, Pierre Huber and Marc Blondeau, as well as a then-newcomer, Edward Mitterand. It now includes a dozen or so galleries, as well as five cultural institutions, including the MAMCO and CAC, the Centre for contemporary art.
Not to be side-lined by the many art fairs and biennales that are cropping up just about everywhere, Quartier des Bains has invented its own event to attract a new public to art: on La Nuit des Bains, that takes place on the last Thursdays of March, May and September, each of the participating galleries inaugurates a new exhibition while all the museums stay open until 9pm.
Up to 3,000 people attend each edition, some looking for a crash course in contemporary art, others for the socializing and some even to buy. Located in an area not much larger than a football pitch, the galleries are all within a short walking distance of each other. A few of the galleries, especially among the newcomers, are more adventurous than others, but generally the discoveries to be made are not too wild. This is Switzerland, after all.