The center room of the exhibition features a salon-style hanging of small-scale drawings and paintings from the Jungo collection.
Elizabeth Brunazzi &
The author with collector Jean-Paul Jungo at his Morges residence in May, 1998.
|Portrait of the Collector as a Swiss Banker
Portrait d'un ami, Jean-Paul Jungo
Curated by Rémy Zaugg
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland
July 7-October 1, 2000
Portrait d'un ami, Jean-Paul Jungo
by Rémy Zaugg in collaboration with Jean-Paul Jungo
Lausanne: Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 2000
238 pp. Paper. 35 Swiss francs.
Born in modest circumstances in the town of Morges
just outside Geneva, Jean-Paul Jungo did not have access to an
advanced education. As a young man he went to work in Swiss banking
and over time he prospered. Instead of using the process of collecting
art and rare books to enrich himself still further, he developed
the habit of collecting to create an alternative mode of existence.
According to French artist and curator Rémy Zaugg, the
collection assembled by Jungo and recently exhibited for the first
time at the sumptuous Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne
is one of the most important collections of contemporary art and
literary first editions in private hands in French-speaking Switzerland.
In a catalogue interview with Zaugg, Jungo describes how collecting
art became a way of creating his own present a relationship
with his own time and culture on a daily basis. The process
of collecting as Jungo has engaged in it over the past thirty
years is an intellectual and cultural adventure; an education
in the broadest sense; the autodidactic formation of a mind and
sensibility over the lifetime of an individual; and a communion
with the life of art itself.
I first met Jean-Paul Jungo in the company of New York abstract
constructivist painter Don Hazlitt, for whom I acted as an interpreter
with the French-speaking collector. The large Morges apartment
overlooking Lake Léman where Hazlitt and I visited Jungo
in 1998 had been turned over entirely to exhibition of Jungo's
extensive collection. Even the spacious bathroom had been taken
over for exhibition of a number of paintings and pieces of sculpture.
I was struck by the graceful inquisitiveness
of Jungo. This was no self-important, self-congratulatory man of
wealth who wished merely to be confirmed in his choices and complimented
on his collection. He was genuinely interested in a dialogue with
Hazlitt, one of the American artists he had collected over a period
of twenty years; and he wanted to hear our response to the general
collection. As Jungo also describes in his interview with Zaugg,
the collection is devoted almost entirely to living artists with
whom, in many instances, Jungo has sought and developed personal
friendships and "dialogues." Some of the artists he has
collected, although not necessarily well-known when he discovered
them, have become internationally celebrated, such as Americans
Richard Tuttle and Pat Steir.
Torn Sky, 1998
oil on canvas, 17" x 21.5"
Jungo's taste is strongly organized around expressionist styles
that range from art naïf and art brut to various versions of
abstraction. He has a penchant for sensual and erotic themes and
unashamedly champions "narrative" in painting. The result
is an intriguingly personal collection full of unpredictable twists
and rich in surprises. Certainly, it is not a collection as easy
to categorize as, for example, that of Americans Dorothy and Herbert
Vogel, now housed in the National Gallery in Washington DC. The
Vogels collected primarily minimalist and conceptual art among living
artists during approximately the same time period covered by the
Jungo collection. Like Jungo, the Vogels made discovery of and friendship
with unknown artists a mainspring of assembling a serious, extensive
collection over a sustained period. Stylistically, however, the
two collections are complementary: minimalist and conceptual styles
are conspicuously absent from Jungo's collection and interests.
When I visited in 1998, one entire room in Jungo's
apartment was devoted to Swiss-born Paris writer/painter Pierre
Klossowski, who specializes in erotic themes. Jungo has maintained
a strong friendship with the erotic painter over a number of years;
the representation of his works within the larger collection is
extensive. The Klossowski room in the Morges apartment impressed
me as the "secret room" of both Jungo's imagination and
his collection. Jungo tells an anecdote (Portrait d'un ami, Jean-Paul
Jungo 34-35) about his first purchase of a Klossowski drawing
in the artist's Paris studio in 1974. The story has it that Klossowski
warned the banker that Swiss customs officials would most likely
confiscate the work as "une oeuvre licencieuse."
While Jungo made it back to Morges with the painting in tow, and
without any intervention by Swiss customs, Klossowski's provocative
warning undoubtedly added to the pleasure of taking such a drawing
back to Switzerland. Klossowski's persistent interest as a writer
and intellectual in the writings of Sade and Nietzsche is translated
in his paintings as the depiction of a "perverse" eroticism
between men and women (sometimes accompanied by geese) in a style
that parodies eighteenth-century French classicism devoted to pastoral
and rural delights. They are at once humorous, mysterious, provocative,
and simply odd.
Outer Focus, 1957
huile sur toile, 73 x 60cm
It was then doubly surprising and amusing to
see the erotic paintings of Klossowski filling a large room in the
Lausanne museum that, replicating the arrangment of Jungo's home
in Morges (he has since moved to Geneva) functioned as the "back
room" of the exhibition. Jungo states that he has been attracted
to Klossowski for the courage with which the artist "transgresses
numerous taboos and dares to affirm his perversity" while remaining
a man "of great delicacy" (Portrait 35). But finally,
says Jungo, "one must not confuse the man with the work."
Nor the collector with his collection. While Klossowski is possibly
the most representative artist of Jungo's collection and interests,
the assemblage remains extraordinarily varied.
De natura rerum, 1973
crayons de couleur sur papier, 169 x 139cm
Portrait de la femme de l'artiste tapant å la machine,
mine de plomb sur papier, 98 x 63cm
The interview with artist, friend,
and curator Rémy Zaugg that introduces the luxurious tome
prepared for the exhibition catalogue is also representative of
Jungo's search for a continuing dialogue, an "infinite conversation"
with both art and artists. One of the most moving exchanges in
that conversation preserves a moment when Zaugg asks Jungo if
the collection is a "trace of his existence" akin to
the "slime left behind by a snail" (30). Jungo understandably
balks at this sticky metaphor and rises to the occasion of the
Frenchman's provocation by stating that, in essence, with his
death, his passing, the most important aspect of the collection
as daily process, as a way of living, will be effaced. The collection
thus becomes at once a trace that is left and a trace that is
This exchange both recalls and confirms Jungo's evocation of the
importance in his life and thinking of friends Max Schoendorff,
Georges Goldfayn, and Camille Bryen, all of whom were close to
the movement of surrealism and to André Breton's idea of
"objective chance" (le hasard objectif 12). Jungo's
description of some of the pre-war work of Bryen might easily
stand as another metaphor (better than the snail-slime one ) of
the Jungo collection the living adventure of a gifted autodidact
in search of the artistic languages of his own time: "In
Paris, he put sheets of paper under the wheels of trams and exhibited
the imprints of these traces" (27).
All references to the catalogue have been translated
from French into English by the author.
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