The museum has a collection of more than 10,000 pieces, originating from 1816. Many are by Swiss artists, including the Giacomettis, father and son.. When I visited, one floor featured a large, temporary exhibition of over 100 paintings by the Swiss painter Gustav Buchet, an important figure in the avant-garde movements in early 20th century Switzerland. I was drawn, however, to the more realistic paintings of François Bocion, who often painted boatmen at work along Lake Geneva in the 19th century. Bocyon was obsessed with capturing the elusive beauty of light on water, and his obsession is our reward.
The museum, however, is not strictly parochial. It also owns and displays big names as well: Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Rodin, and there is an exhibition of a pioneer of textile art, Magdalena Abakanowicz, until late September.
The latest addition to Plateforme 10 covers the far end of the square: an enormous white cube, its only windows appearing where the cube seems to break. The building was designed by the Portuguese architects Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus and opened in June 2022, along with the square. The cube contains the two other museums of the quarter, the Photo Elysium, the canton museum dedicated to photography; and Mudac, its museum of design and contemporary applied arts.
Inside, the ground level of this enormous block manages both solidity and tent-like airiness. Downstairs, an interactive photography studio was museum education at its best: Visitors can dress up with props, take digital photos and then edit them on a light table – all to teach concepts of framing and composition.
The photo exhibitions were at their best in the Elysée’s contribution to a district-wide exhibition on trains in art, showing photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nan Goldin and others. Many photos reminded how trains can represent escape and adventure, but also a Hail Mary for the desperate. Black-and-white shots of war refugees crowding onto trains, taken 70 years ago, felt like they could have been taken last month.