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Karim Noureldin

One, 2020
acrylic paint, site specific project
In the spring of 2019, the Pictet Group invited artist Karim Noureldin (1967) to conceive a site-specific project for its future 350-seat auditorium in a former industrial building located at 43 route des Acacias in Geneva. The Egyptian-Swiss artist, born in Zurich, developed a large-scale Kunst am Bau project in close collaboration with the architect in charge of renovating the site.

Entering the amphitheatre, the eyes are immediately drawn to the room’s multicoloured ceiling, where the colours pink, blue, yellow, orange and green weave together according to a plan carefully drawn up by the artist. Armed with his interest in architecture, Noureldin was able to show to advantage the supporting structure of the space, deliberately left visible above the tiers. Alternating more than ten colours painted onto its technical and functional components—from metal girders to ventilation tubes—the artist gave the ceiling a vibrant, sculptural look. In an audacious contrast between the dark coverings of the lower area (seats, carpet, stage, curtains) and the coloured tints at the top, the pictorial and architectural spaces mix and unite in a gigantic abstract work. Thwarting all rules of symmetry, here Noureldin punctuates the perfectly controlled rhythm with a monumental chromatic symphony.

The temporary nature of the site’s allocation (it is probably doomed to demolition with the prospect of large city planning projects) oriented the architectural and artistic choices towards functionalism and minimalism. The fruit of holistic reflection, Noureldin’s intervention subtly integrates into the building as a whole, spreading a stream of energy.

The main hall and lobby, also painted by the artist, introduce colour right from the building’s entrance. By colouring walls and structural components, the artist draws attention to the site’s architectural characteristics, such as the imposing spiral staircase and the beauty of its railing. The rhythm of colours accelerates upstairs on two lateral walls in the lobby, covered with wide vertical stripes, converging towards the apex at the heart of the amphitheatre, in a multicoloured explosion.

Noureldin’s intervention evokes the tradition of illustrious painted decorations in churches and operas, like that of Marc Chagall in the Garnier Opera in Paris, and reminds us that a historical link unites art and architecture. Here the ceiling, a source of inexhaustible inspiration, celebrates colour. The vibration, strength and vitality of this project also echoes other famous studies of rhythms and shapes like that of Piet Mondrian in his final painting Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-1943), or the innovative and colourful architecture of the Centre Pompidou by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers—a building that is both futuristic and emblematic of the 1970s.
Karim Noureldin, One, 2020
Karim Noureldin, One, 2020