Arcadia – Bally Foundation



Wednesday: 11:00 – 18:00
Thursday: 11:00 – 18:00
Friday: 11:00 – 18:00
Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00
Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00

In our collective imagination, Arcadia represents that idyllic region located in Greece, described, among others, by Virgil in his Bucolics in 40 B.C. as a place of tranquillity, devoted to the pleasures of nature and song. The mountains, the flourishing nature, the microclimate, and the sweetness of existence have transformed the place into a synonym for an ideal life, where the splendour and harmony of abundant nature open the intimacy and poetry of the garden to the entire landscape.

The “Arcadia” exhibition takes as its starting point the shaping of the territory of the Swiss Italian region of Ticino over the past century, exploring different axes aiming at an ideal of happiness that embraces and develops the relationship with nature.

With the democratization of the automobile in the 1930s, Ticino is finally connected more directly and quickly to German-speaking Switzerland by the Gotthard Road, thereby acquiring the nickname “Sonnenstube,” the sunspot. This sunny and welcoming region became attractive to artists and celebrities at a time when exotic gardens are becoming fashionable. From Morcote to Montagnola via Lugano, from the park of Villa Heleneum to those of writers like Hermann Hesse or great art collectors like Arturo Scherrer or even Peter Smithers, former MI6 secret agent, pleasure gardens are transformed into exotic oases, combining memories of travel and romanticism.

The shaping of these green spaces, often populated with tropical plants, engenders a transforming process that goes beyond the scope of the private garden, creating a sort of Mediterranean ribbon along the shores of the region’s lakes. A portion of the pre-Alpine space gradually becomes a kind of “French Riviera,” where the boundaries between
the private garden and the distant landscape disappear: the exotic flora of the gardens welcoming mandarin trees from China, palm trees from Japan, Cycas revoluta from Central America, eucalyptus from Australia, or rare wisterias and other species, extends as far as the eye can see. As the Swiss botanist and great specialist in alpine flora, Henry Correvon, wrote at the beginning of the 20th century, “in Ticino the vegetation takes on forms so varied, so multiple, it is of such extraordinary exuberance that it elicits admiration everywhere. It is already Italy and yet still Switzerland [...]. It is our ‘Riviera’, our “Midi”, and how peaceful and more picturesque! ” These arrangements often include fake ruins, colonnades along the lakes, reproductions of ancient sculptures or even artificial grottos, giving these garden landscapes a remarkable picturesque dimension.

It is through this juxtaposition of elements that a narrative geography emerges, embodying the image of an idyllic South, with the palm tree becoming the emblem. From exoticism to the aesthetics of ruin, from Ticino palm trees to Californian ones imported in the 1930s to transform the region into the “Mediterranean coastline of America” inspired by the French Riviera - the collective exhibition “Arcadia” questions how contemporary artists compose and bring forth new architectures and emotional ecosystems. Playing with the boundaries between nature and artifice, chimera and reality, they create the utopia of a fictional and immemorial heritage.



  • Full price: CHF 15.–
  • Reduced: CHF 12.–
  • Students: free

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