Esther Eppstein

Esther Eppstein

'The best thing is to have accomplished something together and to be part of this world, these times that we can help to shape if we just keep it simple, get involved, have the courage to be bold, take hold of space and be visible.’ Esther Eppstein

Jury statement

'We share an amazement with the city, a playful approach to the artist’s role in society; we’re both good at getting things done or getting others to do them for us, and creating a simple framework within which people can meet. I’m actually quite proud to have known Esther for so long and to be having this conversation with her.' (San Keller)

© BAK, Marie-Eve Hildbrand / Terrain Vague, Lausanne

Esther Eppstein (born 1967 in Zurich, lives in Zurich)

Esther Eppstein has been running her message salon art project since 1996, and it remains central to her artistic practice to this day. Founded on Ankerstrasse in Zurich’s 4th district, the offspace has occupied various temporary homes around the city, including a camper van which was purchased in 2001 for the Migros Museum collection. In 2006 she teamed up with other culture practitioners to launch the PerlaMode culture house on the corner of Brauerstrasse and Langstrasse.

Zurich is at once her home, material for her work, and her display. Over the years, she has evolved a kind of seventh sense for the way the city develops. From the mid-1990s onwards in particular, she helped to shape the perception of an entire neighbourhood – Zurich’s fourth district – through her projects and the use of shops and their window displays that were standing empty, removing the taboos surrounding it and making it the focus of public attention.

For Esther Eppstein, urban development is and always has been closely bound up with subculture and established cultural life. As she moved from place to place, she invariably succeeded in combining art with a living community, with the aim of creating a network and a new scene, a kind of diverse art family as social sculpture, around the physical space that is message salon.

Since 2015, following the closure of Perla-Mode, she has been curating message salon embassy, an artist-run residence without a permanent home. She invites international artists to spend time in Zurich and join her on expeditions into the city’s cultural scene, forge new contacts and publish a message salon embassy zine.

Her projects have always emphasised that the places where art is staged are truly independent spaces enabling encounters between diverse personalities. They have exerted an inestimable influence on the way art today is experienced and mediated through people coming together, and how ideas are picked up and developed.

Esther Eppstein has received numerous awards for her work as a curator and artist, notably from the City and Canton of Zurich and the Federal Office of Culture (2003 and 2006). Her works are held in the collection of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst and the Collection of Prints and Drawings at the Kunsthaus Zürich.