Spring with Sempé

Spring with Sempé

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Spring with Sempé

An open-air mapping projection around the Parc des Bastions

From March 17 to April 7, from dusk to 11 p.m.


1. Grand Théâtre de Genève – 5, place de Neuve

2. Palais Eynard – 4, Rue de la Croix-Rouge

3. Mur des Réformateurs – Parc des Bastions

4. Uni Bastions – Parc des Bastions

5. Société de Lecture – 11, Grand’Rue

For over a year, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on our daily lives. Cultural and social activities have ground to a halt. The uncertainty continues to weigh heavily on our mood, and opportunities to celebrate are far and few between.

Against the doom and gloom, the Société de Lecture will be welcoming the arrival of spring with an explosion of light and joy. We believe that cultural institutions have a key role to play in bringing long-dormant urban spaces back to life and lifting people’s spirits. That’s why, every evening, the facades of six Geneva landmarks – the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the Rath Museum, the Palais Eynard (park side), Bastions wing of the University of Geneva, the Reformation Wall and the Société de Lecture – will play host to projections of around 50 drawings by the celebrated French illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé.

From the beloved children’s book series Le Petit Nicolas to the covers of the New Yorker magazine, Sempé’s drawings are not only poetic masterpieces but also a powerful antidote to our current gloomy mood. In his drawings, the prolifically talented French artist, now aged 88, reveals the ironies, paradoxes, hidden truths, as well as the beauty of every era he has lived through. This is the first time that his drawings are exhibited on such a monumental scale.

This is a free open-air exhibition with no set itinerary. There will be no scheduled group events or tours, and visitors are kindly reminded to follow health and social distancing guidelines.

This event is also a first for the Société de Lecture, an institution which has been at the heart of Geneva cultural life for over 200 years. The chronology of the project, in brief:

2018. An exhibition of Sempé’s drawings is proposed as part of the Société de Lecture’s bicentennial celebration, but the plan is ultimately shelved in favour of a series of other festive events.

2019. The world is in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The Sempé exhibition is back on the table: his mischievous gaze is just what we need to lift our spirits! But in the context of a pandemic with no clear end in sight, an exhibition at the Société de Lecture is out of the question. Instead, we start dreaming of escape, community, solidarity.

The theatres are closed, exhibitions postponed, concert halls silent. What if we brought these cultural institutions back to life by projecting Sempé’s drawing on their façades? Could his gentle sense of humour and universally loved style bring joy to people walking through the city at night?

From early autumn, the project navigates its way through the moving shoals of pandemic restrictions. It receives the enthusiastic support of many partners and sponsors, including the Geneva municipal government. The exhibition takes form, finds its place, and is finally ready to light up the night.

2021. Spring is just around the corner – a spring with Sempé. The dream has become a reality, inviting Geneva residents to colour they daily walk with a dash of poetry, light and imagery.

Exhibition curators: Delphine de Candolle and Lucie Rihs

Instagram : @societedelecture
Facebook : @unprintempsavecsempe

The Société de Lecture extends its heartfelt thanks to Jean-Jacques Sempé, Martine Gossieaux, and Rémy and Verena Best; the City of Geneva’s Department of Public Spaces, Built Heritage Directorate and Department Culture; the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the Consistory of the Protestant Church of Geneva, the University of Geneva, the Société de Lecture Foundation.

The Société de Lecture is also deeply grateful to Lucie Rihs for her hard work, skill and much-appreciated kindness; and to Romain Bassenne, Sophie Lévitte, Philippine Klahr and Supermafia for their valuable contributions.