For nearly five years, the MuDA has held pioneering algorithm-curated exhibitions of digital artworks by artists ranging from Vera Molnar to Zach Lieberman, alongside running an extensive education programme combining digital technologies with creativity to children, pensioners and professionals alike.
After all Swiss museums were forced to temporarily close to the public in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the Museum of Digital Art in Zurich was left with high rental costs and a severe drop in income. Running without any public funding, bar a one-year grant for 3% of the museum’s budget from the City of Zurich in 2019, the MuDA relies on paid admissions and private donations to keep the non-profit project ticking over. Even after lockdown measures were lifted in Switzerland in mid-May, visitor numbers remain sparse and revenue has been devastatingly low in peak season.
To rub salt in the wound, the Herdern Hochhaus skyscraper that houses the museum on its first floor is due for complete renovation in 2021, leaving the MuDA without a space in which to operate, as no suitable long-term alternative could be found. It would be nigh impossible to pay back a loan to fill the hole left by coronavirus emergency measures without a location, so the museum’s founders Caroline Hirt and Christian Etter were left with no choice but untimely closure. The museum’s final exhibition, presenting the works of young Shanghai-based artist Raven Kwok, will draw to an end on July 19.
“It is heart-breaking to have to make such a short-term decision after all these years building this project up from zero. It feels even more drastic after having spent the lockdown period teaching over 400 eager children online about art, coding and engineering while schools were closed. Digital technology has a major impact on our society, and we are convinced that a public, physical space like the MuDA can play a vital role in dealing with these changes in a diverse and creative way, actively engaging with people from all walks of life. A chapter is closing, but our passion for digital art prevails. We are extremely proud of what we have achieved, and thank all the people who believed in this project and supported us in many different ways during the past five years”, commented the founders.