This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Dadaist movement. But the very building that acted as its birthplace faces an uncertain future unless $13.1m can be found to secure its financial independence. reports that Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland is seeking a benefactor to acquire the whole building for $13.1m while also agreeing to preserve its historic interior space.

Cabaret Voltaire director Adrian Notz told the Art Newspaper: “It would be good to transform the Cabaret Voltaire into a centre for artists to manage the place and give it a more international dimension.”

One Swiss artist has come up with an even more novel idea – turning the building into an artwork itself. Kerim Seiler has suggested the building could be re-envisaged as a sculpture in its own right.

He told Swiss Info he wants to “re-programme people into perceiving Cabaret Voltaire as an historical monument”.  He added: “It should not be about who owns it. It’s not a piece of material, a tool for making money. It’s a place where a couple of migrants [Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings] did things that changed our perception of existence.”

Current owner

However, such plans will only be possible if the current owner, the insurance company Swiss Life, agrees to sell the building. A spokesperson for Swiss Life said: “We can understand that the building is inspiring creative ideas during its centenary year. Nevertheless, we will not be drawn into speculations of this type.”

Part of the problem facing Cabaret Voltaire is its current running costs. In addition to an annual rent of 315,000 Swiss Francs there are running costs of 500,000 Swiss Francs. Although it raises revenue from the site’s shop, bar and venue hire for artistic performances, additional funding from the city of Zurich is by no means certain to continue.

The conservative right Swiss People’s Party have opposed the council paying the organisation’s rent, taking particular offence to performances that have included a couple urinating on one another.

A successful crowdfunding scheme recently raised 100,000 Swiss Francs for its centenary celebrations but this is by no means a sustainable model.

“It would not be a disaster for Dada if Cabaret Voltaire went out of existence, but it would be a disaster for Zurich,” said Notz. “Even if other places identity with Dada, such as Paris or Berlin, there can only be one birthplace.”

For more information on Cabaret Voltaire visit

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