HR Giger and Vali Myers: a visit to Giger Museum and Bar in Gruyères

Outside there’s the fairy-tale Gruyères, with its romantic castle and the wrought iron crane shaped signs, inside a four-floor trip in the world of sex, aliens and grotesque creatures created by a unique artist; today, as promised, I write about the attraction that made me travel for more than two hours on swiss roads: Giger Museum, the museum dedicated to H. R. Giger’s work.

H.R.Giger

Born in 1940, Hans Ruedi Giger has been an incredible contemporary artist, author of works going from painting (especially airbrush ones) to sculpture, from drawings and sketches to music covers and various other artworks, famous in primis for the creation of the main creature of the film Alien by Ridley Scott, for which he won a Oscar in 1980. His works have roots in the world of surrealism and simbolism and are characterized from intense and often grotesque contents and in being sexually explicit and provocative both conceptually and aestetically.

H.R.Giger,_ca._1985
H.R.Giger in 1985 By Kedar Misani (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Giger Museum

As you know if you read my previous article about Gruyéres, I am a Giger fan from long time and from many years I was dreaming to visit his museum/house hosted inside a little castle in the French Switzerland. You can guess my emotion when, finally, I was in front ofits entrance doors!

Giger Museum, opened 20th June 1998, has its location in the characteristic Château St Germain, situated in the heart of the fary-tale medieval fortified town of Gruyères; acquired by the artist in 1998, it hosts the biggest permanent collection of H.R.Giger’s artworks.

Imagine to walk in a city like the ones in fables: a market square scattered with little shops with old signs, a fountain in the middle, medieval houses with painted facades and stoned walls all around, on the open, green, infinite ladscape. Then, suddenly, going uphill towards Gruyères Castle, a little square; a look on the right and there’s no doubts, we arrived: Giger’s works, with his unique style, are there, welcoming us from the outside of the museum’s building.

giger museuml

The statue of one of his bullet babies, a work I consumed with my eyes leafing through the book ARH+, is there, right in front of me, on a wall, breaking the enchanted atmosphere of the town and the Sunday of coloured tourists walking through its typical streets, marking an outpost from another obscure and distorted dimension. Together with the statue, near the entrance there is the sculpted reproduction of one of the most famous works of the artst, “Birth Control“, originally a painting, from which comes the character we just met.

Gruyères medieval floor gives way to the one that will accompany us for all the internal path in the museum: a sequence of symbols and drawing carved directly in the cement.

giger museum floorl

At this point I can’t wait anymore, I’m very excited: we have to go in!

Inside, the museum is dark: the entrance with the ticket desk is a black room, sprinkled with works and merchandise (alas, unluckily pretty expensive for my budget); we pay the entrance (12,50 CHFR) and we are immediatly warned that inside the museum it isn’t possible to take pictures (in fact in this article you will find only the ones from Wikipedia, since all the rest are under the copyrights): none of us wants to risk a pricey swiss fine.

We start to go up the stairs: they’re wooden, creaks under our feet and are carved with the symbols we met on the external floor. And they are black, of course. Arrived at the floor, there are the first works: some oil canvas (really it is oil? Giger was so good that they seem airbrush). So excited: after all these years, finally I can see them live! I have to admit that I was a bit scared of ending being disappointed after the miriad of times I saw the works on books; but live they are even more incredible: majestic, perfect, beautiful, nightmares made of fog and dark colours, broken by fantastic, creepy, desolated landscapes.

3f43d62a51a93ba25ed9687f938733a6The remaining part of the first floor is a collection of statues and original models, both of the creatures and of the ship, coming from the Alien and Alien III sets; there are even the original project sketches and one of the chairs of the ship. We walk through them and it is really hard to not take pictures: who wouldn’t want to be captured at least once on the side of Alien, even just with a cellphone camera? Under one of the stairs there is also the Oscar won in 1980 for the visual effects of the first movie.

On a side of the room there is a door covered by a curtain, from which it comes a red light; we get closer: a sign warns that it is the adult section of the collection. Yes, because part of the artist’s production is certainly not suitable for children or even adults with a too sensitive taste: it is a section mostly made by ink sketches on paper, often together with long texts written in german (unluckily there is no translation in the room), where the most provocative and free eroticism mixes with Giger’s love for grotesque. For me an impressive part of the exhibition, especially since I already knew of them from the Taschen book I own, for many other visitors (as it is clear from the reviews on Tripadvisor) a nightmare. My opinion? I support completely the visits to museums in any occasion, but maybe, before, it would be better to read something more about what you are going to see. Giger Museum is not suitable for eveyone, surely not for every age.

The cover of the Taschen book "HR GIGER ARh+"
The cover of the Taschen book “HR GIGER ARh+”

We continue our visit and see live many of Giger’s most famous works: the rooms are a triumph of airbrush paintings, sculptures and metal assemblies, plus some furnitures, part of the production of the artist as designer.

On the last floor we seat for some time in a little room in which a documentary is played: it has to be from the last period of life of the artist, since in it appears an old and shaky Giger, but we can’t understand much since it is in german with french subititles. The remaining part of the floor is dedicated to the private collection of the artist, composed by other authors’ works, all with the same leitmotiv: the taste for fantastic and grotesque, the same one that spreads among Giger’s works.

Vali Myers

An additional discovery was the one we made visiting the little art gallery annexed to the museum: here take place the exhibitions of other artists, often similar in the vision to Giger. During my visit it was hosting the works by Vali Myers, artist, performer and muse who went all around Europe and USA during the 50s and 60s. An amazing surprise, that added marvel to the one I already felt achieving one of the dreams I had from when I was a teen.

Giger Bar

There are just two of them in the world (a third one was in Japan, but Giger never recognised it and later it closed): one in Chur, the artist’s native city, open in 1992, the other one in Gruyères, in front of Giger Museum, more recent. To walk under the biomechanical vaults created by Giger, an ambient made by many crossed spinal columns, and sit on one of the chairs designed for the Harkonnen throne in Dune, was another of my dreams and…guess? This became reality as well!

In fact, just after ending our visit to Giger Museum, our eyes still full from the incredible artworks we seen, we went to have something to drink at one of the tables of Giger Bar, just in front; don’t imagine a wide bar, because it’s not: we have been lucky and we found a free table straight away, but some tourists after us had to wait to grab one.
It’s been so exciting sitting on one of the amazing chairs designed by Giger!

Jpeg

Here finally I was able to shot some pictures, but, keep it in mind, you can do so only if you order something (and, as everywhere in Switzerland: pay attention to the prices! 😉 ).

Information:

MUSEUM HR GIGER
Château St. Germain
1663 Gruyères
E-Mail: info@hrgigermuseum.com

Official site: HR GIGER MUSEUM

Thanks to Ciagula and Martin for making this possible!

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