A moon in a lake. A house to watch the sun set. Almost always in view: His castle, the symbol of the Lower Engadin. Not Vital, a native of Sentin, significantly enriches the artistic landscape in the lower part of the Engadine. The international artist sets significant accents with his sculptures and works and allows guests interested in art to discover the valley, in the very east of Switzerland, from a new perspective.
"When we went to school, there were only five continents "1
It's a hot summer day in the Lower Engadin. Friday the 13th, at exactly 1:13 pm. Tensely the assembled guests look up. There, where Not Vital stands. On the stairs to his newly built "House to watch the sunset". Then finally, when the champagne bottle is decapitated and the sparkling contents flow over the lower of the 39 steps, it is opened, the third house in the house.
Agadez, Niger. Amazon, Brazil. And now also in Tarasp in the Engadine. Three staircases and four floors with a total height of 13 metres are part of the plant. Just a stone's throw from the castle. The flags waving in the wind on the roof are clearly visible. On the left is that of Niger, on the right that of Brazil - the locations of the first two "Houses to watch the sunset".
Vital relies on the resources of the region for the construction. His brother Duri Vital supported him as an architect, and a construction company from Ardez finally realized his idea. The sand for the concrete comes from the Inn. "Everything was built within a radius of about 13 kilometres" he says and is rewarded with a hearty laugh from the audience.
"When we went to school, there were only five continents," says Not Vital. Consequently, two more houses are to be built, one made of aluminium on an island in the South Pacific and one made of iron in Mongolia. Visitors to the opening will like the work of art, which was conceived in 13 minutes according to the artist, at least visibly, and the Lower Engadine will be enriched by a new eye-catcher.
Not quite new, however, is the valley's landmark at the border triangle of Switzerland, Austria, Italy: Tarasp Castle.
It was built around 1040 by the Lords of Tarasp, taken over in the meantime by an Austrian county and finally transferred to the Helvetic Republic by Napoleon in 1803. In 1900 the industrialist Dr. Karl August Lingner - inventor of the Odol mouthwash - decided during a stay at Vulpera to acquire and renovate the fortress which had collapsed at that time. After his death in 1916 the castle went to the family Ernst Ludwig von Hessen and remained in their possession until 2016. After long negotiations - the family was looking for a buyer - Not Vital was able to purchase the castle for 7.9 million Swiss francs.
"I will do my utmost to turn the castle into a place of cultural significance and human encounters, thus contributing to the attractiveness of the community and the overall economy of the region "2.
For the "Fundaziun Chastè da Tarasp", the long-standing search for a solution for the castle thus comes to a positive conclusion, as it is now preserved as a public good for the region.
The artist keeps his promise. Step by step he is equipping the castle with contemporary art. In doing so, he preserves old things and respects the history of the Chastè, like the largest private organ in Europe, which is spread over three floors with 2700 pipes. Every now and then he sits in front of the instrument himself and lets the impressive tones sound.
It is remarkable how Vital brings his own art and art collection into the rooms, while preserving the original character of the historically significant château. And there is also a lot to discover in the outside area and in the immediate surroundings. On the Lai da Tarasp, the small lake, a huge metal ball floats. It represents nothing other than the moon, in whose silver shine the surroundings are reflected.
Not Vital receives support from the young, internationally active Engadine artist Giorgia von Albertini, who has known him since childhood through her mother, also an artist. Since 2014 she has been working as a curator and organising his exhibitions.
Vital's artistic field of activity is diverse. For example, Chasper Pult, lecturer in the Rhaeto-Romanic language and cultural mediator, described him as a talented writer during a reading at the Chesa Planta in Samedan. The artist began writing poetry at an early age, first under the pseudonym OMV (Otto Maria Vital, his father's name). Recently his book "Kec' & frajas" was published.
Not Vital was born in 1948 in the mountain village of Sent, which lies high above the Inn Valley. His family has been at home there for 700 years. Sent is also known for its randulins (Rhaeto-Romanic for swallows): people who always went away but returned - as well as Vital.
He got his passion for construction from the work of his father, Otto Mario Vital, who worked in the wood business and owned a sawmill. The young Vital first erected his first buildings in the area out of boredom, in the "television-free time".
"I inherited from my father not many things, but important ones. "3
He first came into contact with art through the influential art historian Max Huggler (1903-1994), who had a holiday home near Sent and brought the then young Not Vital into contact with high-quality works of art. Another pioneer, who later helped him to make his breakthrough, is the gallery owner and art collector Gian Enzo Sperone, who exhibits works by Vital in his gallery in New York.
After graduating from school, the "randulina" did not stop in Sent and the budding artist began to travel the world. At first he was drawn, like so many before him, to Paris, where he attended the art academy. Rome and New York followed, as well as his younger working places in Rio de Janeiro and Beijing. Nevertheless, as befits a swallow, he always returned to his home village.
Almost inconspicuous at the western entrance of Sent is the Parkin. Only a gate, which can easily be overlooked on the way to Sent, as well as the artistic sculpture in front of it, which Vital gave to his friend, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, indicate that there might be something else hidden at the proud Engadine village: A park landscape, indeed more like a fairytale world in 23,000 square metres.
Until 1965, the property was owned by the emigrant Luzio Crastan, who wanted to use it to create his holiday and retirement residence with a magnificent villa. But the project was never finished and after his death his daughter sold the area to Otto Augustin, before Not Vital bought the property in 1998 and started to build the Parkin with the help of his brother Duri Vital.
During the guided tour through the mysterious park, donkey bridges invite daring visitors to cross them on aluminium skulls, some of them high above the ground. On what seems to be a floating stage, the surrounding nature and the mountain panorama can be particularly absorbed. Sculptures can be discovered again and again. The staging between fantasy and reality between nature and culture is fascinating. It is not only a place to linger. It is a place to be. And when you think you can expect nothing more, the earth opens up on a slope and a house rises up.
Not Vital changes the artistic landscape in the Lower Engadine. He enriches it and invites all those interested to accompany him on his journey.
"When I was tired of seeking, I learned to find "4
1 Opening of the "House to watch the sunset", Tarasp, 13.08.2018
2 Press release, 30.03.2016
3 & 4 Encounter with Not Vital and Chasper Pult, Chesa Planta, Samedan, 22.08.2018