Ville de Genève


Mise à jour: 20.03.2018

Sculptures along the Plainpalais Cultural Trail

On horseback, decorating a fountain, set right on the ground without a plinth or even on the roofs of buildings, the urban environment and public spaces along this Trail are full of works of art, that provoke the curiosity of passers-by who contemplate them.

The Statue of General Dufour

Alfred Lanz, 1884
Place de Neuve

Sentier culturel 3 - Général Dufour - Ville de Genève
© R. Gindroz

Standing right in the centre of the square, the equestrian statue of General Dufour by the sculptor Karl Alfred Lanz (1884) elicits quite a few comments. Firstly, as he himself admitted, Dufour rarely rode a horse. In terms of sculpture, he also said he preferred "a well-delineated bust".

Note that the horse is raising one of its forelegs: contrary to a long-held belief, this does not imply that the sculptor was following the codes of statuary and indicating that the rider was wounded in battle! Dufour’s outstretched arm is a pacifying gesture: the hero of the Sonderbund civil war of 1847 was successful in bringing peace to the Swiss cantons.

The location of this equestrian statue is not accidental: Guillaume-Henri Dufour, a civil engineer and the first cartographer of Switzerland, once had his offices in the former city gate, the Porte de Neuve, which was demolished in 1853 and which gave its name to the square. The orientation of the statue, with Dufour’s back to the upper town and with him facing the new, modern, Geneva that was being built, also pays tribute to his urbanistic vision.

Nymph of the Fountain (Bacchante)

James Pradier,  1st quarter of 19th century. (model); 1976 (cast)
Place du Cirque

Sentier culturel 3 - Nymphe - Ville de Genève
© C. Quoëx

As Geneva does not traditionally decorate its fountains with statues, the one in the Place du Cirque is all the more remarkable as its nymph is the work of the great James Pradier (1790-1852), a Geneva-born artist who pursued his career in Paris. The Caryatids surrounding Napoleon’s tomb in the Invalides are also his work, as are the two female statues representing "Comédie" on Fontaine Molière, also in Paris. Back in Geneva, Pradier also sculpted the statue of Rousseau on the island of the same name in the middle of the Rhône.

Before being cast in bronze at the Pastori Foundry in Carouge in 1976, James Pradier’s beautiful languid woman reclined in the storerooms of the Museum of Art and History in the form of a terracotta model. Although her pose recalls that of the Venus Callipyge, an Ancient Roman statue of the goddess of love looking back over her shoulder to admire the beauty of her buttocks, her crown of vines places her among the Bacchantes, the ecstatic priestesses of the god of wine and intoxication. Despite their mythological attributes, the sculptor’s figures were often representations of real women of his day. With her foot caught in the fabric and her wrist still in the armhole of a garment, could this river spirit not be the portrait of a lover undressing?

Alter ego 1905–1982–3000

Gérarld Ducimetière, aka John Aldus, 1982
Rond-point de Plainpalais

© T. Maisonnasse

"Alter ego" by Gérald Ducimetière is based on four silhouettes captured on historic photographs taken at the Rond-point de Plainpalais. Set up in exactly the same places as these passers-by of former days, four bronze figures now perpetuate their poses and movements, enabling them to travel through time and become inextricably linked with the present.

The mimetic qualities of these amusing and surprising sculptures make them the alter ego of all passers-by. Although each figure represents a particular person – the man with a suitcase is modelled on the French writer Michel Butor – they remind us all of our own presence in the spectacle of everyday life.


Maurice Ruche, 1981 - 1982
Rond-point de Plainpalais

Sentier culturel 3 - Iraklion - Ville de Genève
© T. Maisonnasse

Composed of two polyhedral columns, Iraklion by Maurice Ruche is named after the city in Ancient Greece. A prime example of the artist’s spatial vision, Iraklion demonstrates his interest in geometric forms and his desire to integrate art into architecture. Six times the height of a person with their arms raised, the columns can be seen from afar by drivers and pedestrians alike and function as signal sculptures in the city. Daylight and night-time illumination create a play of light and shadow on the white concrete surfaces and the artwork’s appearance changes when observed from different viewpoints.

Frankie a.k.a. The Creature of Doctor Frankenstein

KLAT, 2013-2014
Plaine de Plainpalais 

Sentier culturel 3 - Frankie - Ville de Genève
© S. Fruehauf

The famous author Mary Shelley chose the Plaine de Plainpalais as the site of the monster’s first murder in her novel "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" (1816). So it comes as no surprise that Klat, a Genevan artists’ collective, selected the same location for "Frankie", their cast bronze statue inspired by the novel. Although this 2.4 m high sculpture is designed to represent the monstrous creature looking towards the Salève, it does more than just this. Without a plinth and wearing a hooded jacket, "Frankie" thumbs its nose at traditional statuary. Much closer to the public, this work also refers to the figure of the vagrant or the outsider.

Neon Parallax

Public commission for nine artists, 2006-2011
Plaine de Plainpalais

Sentier culturel 3 - Néons - Ville de Genève
© S. Fruehauf

At nightfall, nine neon signs light up on the roofs of buildings around the vast diamond-shaped Plaine de Plainpalais. These installations, which could easily be mistaken for omnipresent urban advertising, subtly infiltrate the cityscape. Commissioned by the Contemporary Art Fund of the City and of the Canton of Geneva, this public art project combines installations by Swiss and international artists to create a nightly outdoor exhibition. The word «parallax» describes a particular optical illusion, whereby the position of an object appears to change when seen from a different viewpoint. Is «Neon Parallax» therefore an invitation to consider the urban environment in a new light?


Pieter Vermeersch, 2013
Rue François-Dussaud

Sentier culturel 3 - Silos à sel - Ville de Genève
© S. Fruehauf

When the first autumn frosts see the city sliding into a slower rhythm, the salt silos of the Geneva Highways Department wake up after a long summer sleep. The artist Pieter Vermeersch’s installation, which surronds the silos’ quadrangular structure, is an X-ray of this inverted rhythm. Sensors monitor the salt levels present and the luminous intensity of the monochrome plates varies accordingly. White, pink/purple, blue and orange are all colours that salt can possess in the natural world.

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