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Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts presents Sarah Margnetti: Supportive Structures

September 30, 2022–April 23, 2023

For her solo exhibition in the MCBA Project Space, Brussels-based artist Sarah Margnetti (born 1983) will display a number of fresh canvases and wall paintings that revisit the major themes that have characterized her previous work.

Sarah Margnetti has mastered the trompe-l’oeil technique and created a unique visual language that mixes optical illusion and abstract shapes. These themes, which are used in large-scale wall paintings or on canvas, depict body parts whose roles are frequently reappropriated (for example, an ear becomes a whole body, a body a brain, and intertwined fingers a fence or grating) or worked out in various ways. In a play of inside and out, dream and reality, they emerge from or blend into architectural or scenic components taken from the theater (curtains, balustrades, theater seats, etc.). The ear is one of the sense organs that is frequently mentioned. It becomes one with the wood knots in a trompe l’oeil scene, changes into a painter’s palette, or takes the place of the eyes in a face. The work of the artist then appears to prioritize listening above speaking and seeing, challenging and toying with traditional themes in art history, particularly those of the feminine body.

Sarah Margnetti has mounted a number of canvases and on-site wall paintings in the MCBA Project Space that draw from, expand upon, or rediscover themes that are essential to her practice. The artist experiments with a curtain theme on the glass façade. The curtain is that component that simultaneously divides and connects within and outside, similar to glass. Even if curtains block our view, we can still feel, hear, and even touch what is directly behind them, whereas glass allows us to visually connect what it physically divides. All of Sarah Margnetti’s work focuses on porosity, passage, and the transitional, in-between state, whether it be in the body and its sensory organs or in architectural structures and their decor (curtains, brick walls, holes in the wood) (nose, mouth, ear). Architecture and bodies are combined and merged; for example, a wood piece’s knot can take the form of an ear, an ear can be the capital of a column, and a column can sprout arms, while painted marble’s veins can resemble skin.

The caryatid is a reoccurring motif in the artist’s visual lexicon that stems from her interest in the relationship between the body and building. The caryatid, which is Greek for “maidens of Karyai,” was a sculptured female figure that frequently wore a long tunic and supported an entablature on her head. She frequently replaced columns or pillars in structures. Sarah Margnetti questions the historical confluence of female bodies and architecture by adopting this figure. She employs the caryatid to give visual form to the topic of the unseen work done by women to maintain the strength of the world’s economic and social structure.

According to Camilla Paolino, who wrote a wonderful essay that was included in the exhibition catalogue, “the caryatid’s functionality depends on her ability to do as if the feat of carrying the weight of the system were effortless, that is, on her ability to keep the labor she performs hidden: an unfathomable, unthinkable arcane. The caryatid must be calm and silent in order to preserve the arcane. The moment she speaks, the structure quakes. If she moves, the structure will fall. Caryatids by Sarah Margnetti, however, are more than just a tribute to women’s underappreciated labor. They are also intended to address the work done in support of the arts and cultures, which depend on the unpaid labor of large numbers of unnoticed workers to survive.

Curated by Nicole Schweizer, Curator of contemporary art, MCBA


Sarah Margnetti holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts from the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne / ECAL (2005-2009) and a Master’s in Visual Arts HES-SO, Work.Master from the Geneva University of Art and Design / HEAD (2013 – 2015). She also completed a practical training course at the Institut Van der Kelen-Logelain in Brussels, a school devoted to the study of decorative painting. She is the recipient of the Manor Art Prize 2022 Vaud and the Swiss Art Award 2018. Her work has been exhibited in a range of institutions and venues, including Le Commun, Geneva; CAN, Neuchâtel; La Villa du Parc, Annemasse; Last Tango, Zurich; SALTS, Basel; and Stems Gallery, Brussels.

Nicole Schweizer (ed.), Sarah Margnetti. Sintonia, with a text by Camilla Paolino, co-published by Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne and art&fiction publications, Lausanne, 2022 (Fr./Eng.), 144 pp., 80 ill.

Price: 35 CHF / 30 CHF at the MCBA Book- and Giftshop during the exhibition
shop.mcba [​at​]

Performance by Julia Perazzini: 
Waves On
Thursday, January 26, 2023, 7pm

Limited capacity. Register online:

For more information on the full public program:

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The exhibition and publication have been realised thanks to the generous support of the Manor Culture Prize 2022 Vaud.

Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne (MCBA)
Place de la Gare 16
1003 Lausanne
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm,
Thursday 10am–8pm

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