Museum of Cultures
The Museo delle culture (Museum of Cultures) in Lugano presents an art collection of civilizations of the Far East, India, South-East Asia and Oceania. The core of the collections consists of works donated by Ticino artist Serge Brignoni (1903-2002). Fascinated by the world of "secret affinities", he nurtured a passion for the arts of the southern seas and explored the figurative languages of simple cultures. He collected an extraordinary selection of works that have also influenced his artistic flair through personal research for abstraction between essential volumes and elementary contents.
Since 2006 the Museo delle culture has expanded the core of 660 original works to over 8'000, coming from different loans or donations. The permanent exhibit is set up on the first and second floor. The course of the exhibit was conceived as an imaginary geo-cultural trip through the main areas documented by the museum's collection. In addition, for each hall the visitor is encouraged to observe the works from four distinct levels of interpretation in order to allow a moment to reflect about the subjects of travel (artistic, interior and concrete, accomplished from the West to the most extreme of the Orients), of ethos (namely the cultural structures of the authors of the exhibited works), of the anthropological relevance connected to a vision of the world of the cultures in question and, finally, of the artistic style.
The touring of the museum is sustained by a multimedia informational system that allows the exploration at different levels of the works and cultural content of each hall. Upon request, guided tours, conference-visits and workshops can be organised.
The work of Serge Brignoni interests the museum more for his activity as a passionate collector and expert of ethnic art than for the significance of his paintings and sculptures, although both are intimately related. Decisive encounters for the young Swiss artist were doubtlessly those with André Breton and Tristan Tzara through whom he discovered Surrealism and with whom he shared the poetic and artistic ends. It is exactly in the context of such Parisian encounters that Brignoni developed an interest for ethnic art, beginning to collect a large amount of Indonesian and Malaysian sculptures.
Since the beginning the Museo delle culture has been housed at the Heleneum, a villa on the shores of Lake Lugano, accessible also by boat. The Villa Heleneum was built between 1930 and 1934 by a strong-willed cosmopolitan woman, originally from Frankfurt but resident in Paris, who lived there until 1967. The park of the museum is a little botanical jewel where, thanks to a particularly mild microclimate and the presence of the lake, Mediterranean, tropical and subtropical plants flourish.