Geneva-based artist and designer honoured at Art and History Museum

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Alexandre Fiette, curator, with Roger Pfund, artist, right

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Roger Pfund, best known for his development of banknotes and official documents, is the subject of a retrospective at Geneva’s Art and History Museum.

The show is unusual for a museum generally known for considering “history” when “art” is honoured. Pfund’s is highly contemporary: his posters advertising local cultural events regularly adorn city streets.

The retrospective presenting the Bernese-born artist’s creations in various media opened to the public Friday 22 March, demonstating the interest in exhibiting an artist who is “very Genevois…local yet international”, says Geneva cultural councilor Sami Kanaan.

Pfund trained as a mathematician. He moved to Geneva in 1971, the same year he won a national bank competition to design new bank notes.

After many years of creating colourful, yet complex, non-reproducible designs, “He is now the international reference in working with bank notes”, according to Alexandre Fiette, the show’s curator.

Bank notes as ambassadors

The artist told GenevaLunch.com, “A bank note has to be beautiful, colourful, has to tell a story, it has to be entertaining and must reflect the culture of a country.” He says that “A bank note is after all a country’s cultural ambassador, presenting the visitor with the first impression of the country.”

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Design work for Argentina’s new bank notes by Pfund

Pfund designed French franc notes featuring Saint Exupéry’s Little Prince, which were in circulation during the 1980s and 1990s. Moree recently, he has created bills for Argentina’s central bank, displaying former leader Eva Peron.

It includes the 70-year-old artist’s collection of Warhol-esque paintings of 20th century stars, as well as poster designs for local and national cultural institutions, including Geneva’s Grand Theatre, interior designer Teo Jakob, the Knie Circus and children’s theatre Am Stram Gram, for which he designed its Carouge shop interior.

The most recent Swiss passport, with what appear to be embossed crosses, and Geneva’s tax return forms, also belong to Pfund’s long list of recognizable, everyday creations.

His “latest baby”, as he calls it, which is also shown at the museum, is a bank note specimen showcasing Jules Vernes, produced entirely with a revolutionary synthetic polymer, using transparencies, and presented last year at an international bank note congress in Washington. The use of polymer, the designer explained, is a serious nuisance for counterfeiters.

The exhibit runs until August, before moving to China and then Argentina.

Roger Pfund, The multiple and the singular, at the Geneva Art and History Museum, 22 March-11 August.