Reaper. Richard Hamilton and Sigfried Giedion

 Graphische Sammlung ETH Zurich

– 25 June 2017

The 150-year celebration of the Graphische Sammlung and the 50-year jubilee of the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (GTA) at ETH Zürich were the impetus for a collaboration between GTA Exhibitions and the Archive. The graphics series “Reaper” (1949) is a response by the English artist, Richard Hamilton, to the publication “Mechanization Takes Command” (1948) by the Swiss art historian, Sigfried Giedion. The exhibition juxtaposes the two protagonists and shows the process of Giedion’s academic research in relation to Hamilton’s artistic methods.

In his book, Sigfried Giedion (1888–1968) focuses on the mechanisation of everyday life. The unconventional structure and the rich illustrations in the form of artworks, sketches and photographs have an unsystematic appearance which led to severe criticism. It is only upon a second look that it is clear that there is a well-thought-through system behind the collage-like arrangement. Fascinated by the montage of illustrations and the chapter about reapers, Richard Hamilton (1922–2011) was inspired to create his graphic series entitled “Reaper”. He used the images in Giedion’s book as the starting point for free artistic interpretation, experimenting with various techniques in graphic print. The exhibition, “Reaper. Richard Hamilton und Sigfried Giedion”, combines the work of these men and juxtaposes them. In addition, it has been possible to draw on the GTA Archiv’s extensive material where Giedion’s bequest is held. An anthology with essays has been published to accompany the exhibition, including contributions by Esther Choi and Kevin Lotery, in which the various aspects of this juxtaposition are examined.


The exhibition has been used as an opportunity to redesign the exhibition architecture of the Graphische Sammlung ETH Zurich. Adam Caruso, a renowned architect and professor at the ETH Zurich, has designed new walls and showcases for “Reaper”.


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