The first Italian words learnt by the new director of LAC, Michel Gagnon, who is Canadian, were:
per tutti (for everybody).
And if you walk through the LAC iconic building, whose spectacular windows give you the sensation of flying over the lake and mountains, indeed you won’t feel intimidated by the fact that this is, after all, a cultural centre. Yes, LAC means Lugano Art and Culture (Lugano Arte e Cultura), but its architect, Ivano Gianola, designed it as an inviting, airy space looking at the blue, and encouraging you to walk in, almost like a piazza or a normal street.
With a difference, though: here you’ll find free concerts, cool lectures, crazy photography, music, ballet, art exhibitions and a coffee shop where you might bump into a literary breakfast. I took some free booklets and brochures to have a look at the LAC program more in detail. My bag became so heavy that I wondered how this could all fit in, in the space of a single year. I started to investigate the offer by visiting the main room.
Dogs as Rappers?
The 650 square meters wide hall has a main staircase leading to the exhibition floors. I went to the main one. A dog, dressed up as a rapper, welcomed me in the William Wegman display.
There is no use of photoshop here – all dogs were really posing for the photographs the way you see them
A staff member explained. The dogs eyes were so piercing I felt they might pop out of the frames. More dogs in unexpected situations – wearing wigs, imitating Vogue divas, posing in the exact same way as a Greek statue, greeted me. In the spirit of LAC, these photos were really for everybody: a collection of bright images suitable for kids, but food for thought for grown ups as well.
The Classic Venue
The second room I explored was the theatre. In a perfectly acoustic shell of wood, a young orchestra was rehearsing. I sat on one of the 1’000 empty seats to listen, and all of a sudden traveled to the dream world of the Nutcracker, that was being played. You can find all technical details of the room online, and they explain the perfection of the sound. But you should really sit there once, to understand what I’m talking about – do go to one of the concerts, operas or ballets, if you happen to be in Lugano.
The Craziest Space
After someone dragged me out of the theatre (I didn’t really want to, but we had to leave the musicians to their work), I decided to try the lowest floor. This is the space dedicated to art installations, live performances, and so on. It reminded me of Art Unlimited at Art Basel, the section where all the craziest sculptures and shows are gathered. The day I visited, the exhibition by Julian Charrière, towards no earthly pole, showed the damages of climate change on some of the earth’s most remote areas. It was dark and gloomy and definitely thought-provoking.
The remaining floors of the LAC house the permanent exhibitions, the prestigious Lugano and Canton Ticino art collections, and some multi use rooms.
Effervescent like a champagne – that’s the impression I got by exploring the LAC and researching its packed program. This is due to some recent changes: the incorporation of two more museums, and the start of housing art companies producing their own shows.
In recent years, the LAC became the home of the MASI (Museo d’Arte della Svizzera Italiana – Art Museum of Italian Switzerland), itself formed by the merging of the Cantonal Art Museum and the Art Museum of the City of Lugano.
Newly refurbished, Palazzo Reali was also added, to host some of the exhibitions and events.
Furthermore, the LAC became the permanent home of the Compagnia Finzi Pasca acting company, and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. This means that, while in the past it was always looking for external productions, now it produces and exports some of the art too.
The LAC is also the main location for the Lugano Musica session.
In short: more space, more events, more music, more art.
Contrasts for Everybody
Something I really liked about the visual effect at the LAC is that the huge, modern glass structure is bordering with the old convent and cloisters. Original facades and frescos go perfectly together with the new, sleek structure. The place is so photogenic you won’t resist without taking a photo – even on a rainy day.
The building is also placed, like a crossroad, in the middle of four completely different unities: the lake (in front), the park (behind), the old city (on the left) and the new city (on the right).
Finally, the Latin and German influence of the different parts of Switzerland are quite well represented at the LAC.
To me, this diversity was the main lesson to bring home: not only Lugano is growing with more and more events, initiatives and entertainment, but its cultural heart, the LAC, incorporates contrasting features and ideas that thrive exactly because of that. A place for rich contrasts, and an emotion per tutti.