Markus Raetz

Biography of Markus Raetz

A painter, illustrator and sculptor with an extensive body of work, Markus Raetz is undoubtedly one of Switzerland’s most respected contemporary artists. Born just outside of Bern in 1941, Markus Raetz received no formal artistic training, initially entering the working world as a primary school teacher. Having always maintained a keen personal interest in printmaking and ways of perceiving form and space, he began pursuing his artistic career in the 1970s.


His oeuvre consists of over 30,000 two-dimensional works and countless sculptural, often location based projects, and is almost entirely centered around the nature of human perception. Markus Raetz does not focus on what his works portray, but rather on how they are perceived. Considering himself as something of a magician, despite wanting his work to remain accessible and understandable to all, the artist revels in tricking people’s illusory senses.


Markus Raetz’s most well-known work to date, Yes-No, 2003 does precisely this. The sculpture consists of the word “yes” turning into the word “no” when viewed from a different angle. He creates an optical illusion, changing the content of the artwork entirely simply by anticipating the movement of his viewers. Markus Raetz’s body of work also largely comprises of simpler geometric sculptures that play with negative space and symmetry in order to shift modes of perception.


Composing his works of infinite found materials; twigs, leaves, glass, carved wood, stone, clay, mirrors, glass, corrugated cardboard and odd bits of metal, Markus Raetz has proven to be a highly experimental artist. He plays with these materials and their respective metaphysical characteristics, and then allows for the viewers’ reception of this experimentation to add layers of meaning to his work.  


The artist is also known for his long-term passion for engraving and curiosity towards the various methods of printmaking. Even the works he created as a child showed an aptitude for the multiplying and reversing of motifs. To this day, Markus Raetz has created a vast amount of prints, ranging from etchings to woodcuts to silkscreen prints. Although they often appear to display a single image, they in fact conceal others and demonstrate further the artist’s sensitivity for the subtle shifts and twists that can create endless illusions.


A prolific artist, Markus Raetz has contributed to numerous international group exhibitions, namely the documenta 4, 5 and 7 as well as the Paris, Sao Paolo and Sydney Biennales. His work can be found in the public collections of the MoMA in New York, the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt and the Kunstmuseums of both Basel and Bern. In the early 2000s Markus Raetz was awarded the Prix Meret Oppenheim, and the Gerhard-Altenbourg-Preis. Today, the artist continues to live and work in Bern.

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