«Lion Monument 21»
A Multi-Annual Project by Kunsthalle Luzern 2017 – 2021

Kunsthalle Luzern is taking the 200th anniversary of the Lucerne Lion Monument as an opportunity to explore the world-famous monument in a multi-annual project using artistic means and a transdisciplinary approach.

About L21

From 2017 until the actual Jubilee on August 10, 2021, exhibitions, performances, events and publications will be devoted to various aspects of the monument. The process, as reflective as it is pleasurable and stimulating, will take place over five years, involving partners from the fields of culture, education and tourism, to bring their lion closer to the people of Lucerne, and at the same time to take this unconventional tribute out into the world.

Starting point

The Monument

The Lion Monument in Lucerne is one of the most popular and most photographed monuments in Switzerland. Over 1 million tourists from all over the world visit the carved stone monument each year. Most people have only a vague idea of the historical background to the romantic monument. The allegory of the dying lion is a memorial to the Swiss Guards who died during the storming of the Tuileries Palace in Paris by the revolutionaries on August 10, 1792.

The monument was erected on the initiative of the Guards Officer Carl Pfyffer von Altishofen, at home leave in Lucerne at the time, in honour of his fallen comrades. The commission went to no less important an artist than the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), who was enjoying Europe-wide fame at the time. His design was carved directly into the wall of the former sandstone quarry in Lucerne by the Solothurn sculptor Urs Pankraz Eggenschwiler and, after Eggenschwiler’s fatal accident at the site, by Lukas Ahorn from Konstanz. The project was financed by donations from court and aristocratic circles all over the continent. The monument was inaugurated after three years of preparatory work on August 10, 1821.

The Kunsthalle and the Bicentenary

Since 1996 – with a short interruption – the spaces of Kunsthalle Luzern have occupied the historical building of the Bourbaki Panorama. This places it in the immediate vicinity of the Lion Monument, and makes it, along with the Bourbaki Panorama, the Glacier Garden and the Alpine Diorama ‘Alpineum’, one of Lucerne’s tourist hotspots.

Kunsthalle Luzern is taking the imminent 200-year anniversary of the Lion Monument as an opportunity to explore and address the topic of this world-famous monument using artistic means in the multi-annual project «L21». In a participatory process, there will be a series of exhibitions and events during the coming years until the Jubilee summer of 2021, which will culminate in a multidisciplinary round of activities and a comprehensive publication.

The innovative research plan brings together a great variety of perspectives, examining aspects of art, urban planning and tourism as well as history, military science right up to contemporary forms of mercenarism, violence and remembrance, nationalism and myth-making, the commissioning of art works and artistic autonomy, emblematics, religion, literature and music, all the way through to zoology and geology.

About L21


“L21” invites artists to probe the multi-layered and even conflicted monument for discoveries from the contemporary perspective. The project «L21», initiated in this way and developing through a process over time, will be constantly documented as it progresses. It will also present its results and products in exhibitions, events, in electronic media and publications. The Lion Monument will be given a new face, or, to put it another way: both locals and tourists will – along with those involved in the project – discover unknown facets of the supposedly familiar Lion Monument. The dying lion will – in the extended sense – be awoken to new life.

As one of the smallest, but most flexible and lively cultural institutions in Lucerne – and also located directly beside the site of the event – the Kunsthalle feels predestined to initiate and coordinate this project. It will involve partners from all areas of art, from tourism, culture, education and research and invite them to collaborate.

The Lion Monument belongs to everyone; for that reason the project «L21» aims to reach a wide public. It will draw the attention of the people of Lucerne to one of their trademarks, but also to resonate beyond Lucerne, into Switzerland and the rest of the world, in the sense that this city is distinguished by an art-driven, critical and pleasurable engagement with its history and its monuments.

Organisation and Realisation