With Halloween looming and long winter nights setting in, now is perhaps an appropriately eerie time to contemplate a visit to the bucolic and lilting countryside around the idyllic medieval village of Gruyeres in southwestern Switzerland. Not for its crisp clean air, the stunning panoramas, or even the fondue – but for something far more sinister.
Considerably creepier than a dead-leaf-crunching hike through an alpine forest … definitely darker than the pitch-black sky of a rural retreat where scarce any light pollution invades the opaque night … and way nuttier than the fabulously tasty Gruyere cheese for which this region is so famous, the Museum HR Giger bids a beguiling welcome to fan aficionados with a penchant for the macbre.
Swiss artist Hans Rudolph Giger (1940 to 2014) is best known for designing the alien monster for the movie Alien. In fact, he won an Oscar for it. But well before and long after his success working on Ridley Scott’s 1979 blockbuster hit, the artist was gaining throngs of fans and adherents for his surreal art depicting a brutal, dystopic and “biomechanic” future.
Actually from Chur in the far east of Switzerland with Zurich his home for much of his life, Giger felt a special affinity for Gruyeres. In 1990 (the year the artist turned 50), he was invited to exhibit a major retrospective of his work at the Château de Gruyeres — a show which saw more than 100,000 visitors attend over its run. Giger fell in love with the area. When an opportunity to purchase his own Château presented itself a few years later, he did so with the intention of opening a Center of Fantastic Art. Today the that “center” is the Museum HR Giger, devoted to displaying the artist’s work as well as pieces from his own personal art collection.
Not for the squeamish (or the prudish), the museum offers a sharp contrast to the otherwise wholesome feel of the village and the greater region with its endless opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature at its prettiest and most pristine. Movie buffs of all stripes – especially horror, sci-fi and fantasy geeks — along with anyone interested in the fringes of popular art should adore the time spent browsing its galleries. Despite the gloomy subject matter, the staff at the museum are friendly. Next door to the museum is the HR Giger Bar, an immersive Giger-esque bar and café serving drinks and light meals
Museum HR Giger is located at Château St Germain, 1663 Gruyères.
From April through October the museum is open everyday from 10am to 6pm.
From November through March, the museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Opening hours for Wednesday to Friday are 1pm to 5pm. For Saturday and Sundays, opening hours are 10am to 6pm.
The HR Giger Bar is closed on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the bar is open from noon to 8:30pm. From Thursday to Sunday, the bar is open from 10am to 8:30pm.
Pic via Wikimedia Commons — B-Noa