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CULTURE

Everything you need to know about Eurovision in Switzerland

Switzerland has a smaller Eurovision fanbase compared to countries like the UK, Germany, Spain, or Sweden. But when it comes to actually competing in it – it’s certainly no slouch.

Switzerland's 2021 Eurovision entrant Gjon's Tears celebrates. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Switzerland's 2021 Eurovision entrant Gjon's Tears celebrates. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Although it doesn’t have the reputation for being a flashy, kitschy place you might associate with the modern Eurovision Song Contest, Switzerland has a special place in Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) history.

In 1956, it hosted the very first ESC in Lugano – and won it, when Swiss singer Lys Assia took home the trophy with her French-language “Refrain.”

Since then, the Alpine nation has competed almost every year – missing out on the contest only four times.

READ ALSO: Lys Assia, Eurovision’s first-ever winner, dies aged 94

In 1988, Switzerland famously won again with another French-language song – Ne partez pas sans moi or “Don’t go without me” – sung by none other than a young Celine Dion at the beginning of her career (the French-Canadian singer was invited to represent the country by Swiss officials). 

The country hasn’t turned in an ESC win since then. What’s more, Switzerland’s performance in the last 20 years has also been largely disappointing – with the Swiss act failing to qualify for Saturday’s Grand Final more than half the time. They’ve instead been eliminated during semi-finals.

That might account a bit for Swiss Eurovision viewership figures that are quite a bit lower than places like the UK, Germany, and Spain – where at least a full 10 percent of the population in all three places watched last year. By contrast, about 330,000 people in Switzerland watched Eurovision in 2022.

That said, those Swiss fans have had a bit more to cheer for in recent years – with Swiss acts once again making a clear impression on both contest judges and the general public in televoting.

In 2019, singer Luca Hänni finished fourth with his English-language dance bop “She Got Me.” After the 2020 contest was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss act Gjon’s Tears finished third with his French-language “Tout l’univers.” 2022’s entry Marius Bear didn’t crack the top ten, but made the Grand Final with his English-language “Boys Do Cry.”

READ ALSO: Marius Bear: Who is Switzerland’s Eurovision entrant for 2022?

Switzerland at Eurovision – a rich linguistic history

As you might expect from a country with four official languages, listening to Switzerland’s Eurovision entries over the years is a real treat for language lovers.

Swiss competitors have sung in English 17 times – with most of those being recent Swiss entries.

Swiss singers have sung in French at Eurovision 24 times, with French-language songs accounting for both of the country’s two Eurovision wins.

Switzerland has also sung in German and Italian at Eurovision eleven times apiece. The vocal group Furbaz has the distinction of performing Switzerland’s only ever Eurovision entry in Romansh, with 1989’s Viver senza tei.

READ ALSO: Why are people in Germany-speaking countries so obsessed with Schlager music?

How might Switzerland do this year?

Remo Forrer from Hemburg in the St. Gallen canton is representing Switzerland at Eurovision this year. At 21, he’s already won The Voice of Switzerland reality singing show.

He describes his English-language song for the contest, “Watergun,” as a power ballad that laments the powerlessness of his generation in the world’s current wars.

Bookmakers give Forrer an outside chance at cracking the top 10, now that he’s qualified to compete in the Grand Final on Saturday May 13th. So while it may not necessarily be a winning song, it signals how Switzerland is once again becoming more competitive on the Eurovision stage.

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CULTURE

Swiss museum to remove five paintings linked to Nazi looting

The Kunsthaus Zurich, one of Switzerland's most prestigious art museums, has announced it will remove five paintings after a review of their provenance under new guidelines for dealing with artworks looted by the Nazis.

Swiss museum to remove five paintings linked to Nazi looting

A sixth painting also came in for additional scrutiny, the foundation responsible for the Emil Buhrle Collection said, though it did not believe the new guidelines applied to the work.

The foundation’s namesake was a German-born arms dealer who made his fortune during World War II, and there have long been suspicions about the Nazi-era origins of one of Europe’s most prestigious private art collections.

“The Kunsthaus Zurich has been informed by the Foundation E.G. Buhrle Collection that the Foundation is seeking solutions with the legal successors of former owners for six works in the collection,” the museum said in a Friday statement.

“The Kunsthaus welcomes this approach, but in the interests of visitors very much regrets that five of the paintings will be removed from the Kunsthaus premises” by the foundation on Thursday, it added.

The paintings in question are by Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

In a statement of its own, the foundation explained it had “subjected its artworks to a further assessment” of their provenance based on new best practices from the US State Department for dealing with Nazi-looted art.

For the five works being removed from the museum, “the Foundation will seek just and fair solutions with the descendants or other legal successors of the former owners.”

The foundation determined that “based on established facts”, a sixth painting by Edouard Manet “does not fall under the scope of the ‘Best Practices'”, though the case still merited “particular attention”.

“Due to the overall historical circumstances relating to the sale, the Foundation is prepared to offer a financial contribution to the estate of Max Silberberg in respect to the tragic destiny of the former owner,” it said.

The Kunsthaus has previously run into trouble showing the Buhrle collection, with critics last year saying its attempt to put the works in context did not focus enough on the fate of the art’s former Jewish owners.

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