Annual report 2023

Protecting principles of autonomy and freedom

Pro Helvetia has continuously adapted to changing cultural and institutional circumstances and remains firmly anchored in the political and cultural landscape of Switzerland.

Charles Beer, President of the Board of Trustees

As the country’s Arts Council, we are obliged to clearly analyse the reality we operate in. Only then are we able to support the arts and culture scenes in a way that allows them the scope and freedom they need to engage creatively with contemporary issues and to contribute to an innovative shaping of the future.

Philippe Bischof, Director
Two men standing in front of a colorful bookshelf.
Charles Beer, President of the Board of Trustees (left), and Philippe Bischof, Director (right) © Gina Folly
Two women interact with a glowing light installation emitting a warm glow.
A blue corridor with a reflective floor leads to an illuminated orange door at the end. The ceiling resembles a sky with clouds, creating an immersive atmosphere.
An eight-panel comic strip showing two protagonists talking.
Two performers interacting with a musical art installation, one standing among hanging objects and the other crouched and playing a wind instrument.
A woman is seated on a bright pink block in a room with pink walls. She is focused on a red typewriter, her hands poised over the keys.
A group of spectators sitting and watching an urban performance. The four performers are dressed in pastel costumes, two are lying on the floor and two are standing in a triumphant pose.
A singer in a sparkling top and black pants performs on stage, microphone in hand, with dramatic lighting. Another performer is visible in the background.
Close-up of a person’s arm lifting a lilac-colored shirt, revealing strands of blonde hair underneath.
A person in a white jacket and a black beanie on a bicycle attached to a medical stretcher, in an urban setting with modern buildings and a tall column  nearby.
A variety of botanical elements, including leaves, twigs, moss, and lichen, artfully arranged on a green background.
In a studio with large windows, two dancers in black and white outfits are mid-performance, with their arms braced against each other’s shoulders.
An art installation with a peach-colored poster reading 'SPRING CLEANING' on a white wall. Below, a white table-like structure various small objects.
Three musicians on stage during a performance, all under dim lighting.


Pro Helvetia regularly carries out evaluations of important commitments and measures. In 2023, the Swiss Arts Council commissioned a review of its performance agreement with the Swiss Institute New York (SINY) and of the cooperative funding agreements (CFA) made in 2021–2023. These evaluations provide important information on the effectiveness of the funding measures and highlight any need for adjustments.

Cooperative Funding Agreements (CFA) 2021–2023

Swiss Institute New York (SINY)


The Board of Trustees, chaired until the end of December 2023 by former Geneva State Councillor Charles Beer, is responsible for the Swiss Arts Council’s strategy and governance. The head office, under Director Philippe Bischof, and its 121 staff in Switzerland and abroad ensure that the Foundation’s activities and objectives are pursued and implemented efficiently and effectively. Pro Helvetia is able to rely on the advice of its Committee of Experts, as well as numerous juries and independent experts.

Board of Trustees

Head Office

Committee of Experts

The Committee of Experts consists of a maximum of 13 members, each posessing special knowledge in their fields of expertise. The Committee assesses multi-year performance agreements and funding requests for amounts over CHF 50,000 not assessed by a jury.


Pro Helvetia may appoint juries to assess funding requests and projects.

External experts

External experts advise the head office on specialised topics upon request.


Organisational chart
A large, portrait-oriented photograph is displayed amidst a green forest. The photograph shows a naked person crouching on the ground.
Abstract image with a central kaleidoscope-like pattern in shades of yellow and green, surrounded by flowers in pastel colors, set against a marbled blue and purple background.
An aerial view of an open-air theater stage at night. The stage is brightly lit against the evening ambiance, and audience seating fills the courtyard.

Charles Beer, President of the Board of Trustees

Almost to the day 85 years ago, Swiss Federal Councillor Philipp Etter delivered a message to Parliament in which he lay down the basis for the upcoming foundation of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. The Second World War was about to erupt.

A lot has happened since. Pro Helvetia has continuously adapted to changing cultural and institutional circumstances. But the original concept of an independent cultural promotion institution has stayed intact, weathering the challenges of each passing era. Pro Helvetia remains firmly anchored in the political and cultural landscape of Switzerland and the world.

The key characteristics of the institution’s constitution and identity remain unchanged. It reports to the Federal Department of Home Affairs and fulfils its mandate with a politically acknowledged autonomy, promoting diverse cultural and artistic creation in Switzerland and supporting national and international cultural exchange.

The past ten years have seen an increase in activities and in support. They have been marked by a trend for people to withdraw into themselves, the consequences of the pandemic and, most recently, a series of dramatic conflicts. Nevertheless, the Federal Council and Parliament have retained their basic approach, which is specified every five years in the government’s Cultural Message (‘Kulturbotschaft’) developed by Pro Helvetia and its partners. It is an approach that aims for openness, partnerships, and a strengthening of the status and funding of culture.

With this in mind, I would like to express my gratitude to Federal Councillor Alain Berset for his unwavering commitment to culture and his unconditional respect for two values that are essential in connection with state-funded support for culture: autonomy and artistic freedom.

With my term of office coming to a close, I would like to express my appreciation to all those working for Pro Helvetia – from São Paulo to Shanghai, from Johannesburg to Zurich, the Board of Trustees, the partners and the cultural venues – for their resilience and their lasting commitment to freedom, tolerance and artistic creation.

I wish my successor, Michael Brändle, the best of success in the service of this valuable institution and these shared ideals.

Philippe Bischof, Director

Supporting artists and cultural practitioners from Switzerland in their diverse activities, contributing to the global dissemination of Swiss culture, and promoting cultural exchange between regions and cultures are gratifying tasks that we at Pro Helvetia perform with pride on behalf of the Swiss Confederation.

Our work is personal and institutional, socially and politically relevant, and meaningful. It requires a clearly defined framework, but also democratic principles and an open mindset – neither of which, unfortunately, can be taken for granted in the present times. Hardly have the effects of the pandemic been dealt with when the cultural sector is again in crisis, for both internal and external reasons. Looking at the Swiss Arts Council’s responsibility within the national cultural promotion sector and at the current political and cultural situation, we find ourselves in the midst of hardening social and political divisions and of technological developments with consequences that are still largely unknowable. As the country’s Arts Council, we are obliged to clearly analyse the reality we operate in. Only then are we able to support the arts and culture scenes in a way that allows them the scope and freedom they need to engage creatively with contemporary issues and to contribute to an innovative shaping of the future. In today’s highly polarised and ideologically heated environment, however, it is increasingly difficult to decide on what is to be supported and how to do so effectively, where the limits of artistic freedom lie, where the responsibility of the state sets in, and where it ends. The scope of freedom seems to have narrowed. Opposing sides clamour for pledges of support on the one hand, prohibitions and codes of conduct are issued on the other. Far too rarely is the independent role of art within the multiple forms of expression discussed. Clashes of interest are rife: activist commitment clash with political instrumentalization and attempts to harness the arts; social issues lead to proprietary claims on artists and art institutions.

“The present discourse urgently needs an upgrade to accommodate our multipolar reality, and an honest debate on what art can currently achieve and what not. Prohibitions and other administrative measures are not conducive to an open discussion, and they tend to marginalise art itself”, says artist Hito Steyerl.

We believe it is part of our responsibility as a foundation to encourage constructive dialogue on what cultural promotion can and should do, now and in future. This includes accepting diverging opinions and attitudes, without which there can be no liberal, diverse and open society.

With its support for creation, Pro Helvetia makes an important contribution to the diversity and high quality of artistic productions in the fields of performing arts, design (including game design), literature and comics, music, visual arts and art+.

The year 2023 saw the introduction of supporting creation of photography, too. The pilot programme ‘Focus Photo’, for example, provides financial support for new projects in artistic, documentary or applied photography.

In game design, 24 projects (selection spring | autumn) were awarded a work grant. Among the recipients was Oneira Games studio from the canton of Vaud for its watercolour-illustrated discovery game ‘Echo of the Waves’, in which music and nature interact.

In 2023, musician Bastien Bron received a grant for his sound art project ‘La Machine à Tubes’, which generates pop songs using artificial intelligence and decisions by the audience.

Pro Helvetia promotes artistic and cultural exchange between the different regions of Switzerland. The exhibitions, theatre and dance performances, festivals, concerts, translations and folk culture events supported by the Arts Council generate connections between various cultural and social groups.

Selected for a grant was, for instance, the three-day networking event m2act x burning issues – Performing Arts & Action’ in Berne, at which issues regarding gender equality, combining care work with a career, social sustainability and better working conditions were discussed with performing arts practitioners.

A further grant recipient was the multilingual project ‘Textures – Literarische Begegnungen’ (literary encounters), which comprised around 50 events at various cultural venues in Fribourg.

Support also went to the pluridisciplinary ‘Biennale Son’ in the canton of Valais, where roughly 70 artists and musicians presented their work at 17 venues for a duration of six weeks.

Pro Helvetia supports emerging artists in their efforts to gain a foothold in the professional national and international arts scenes, in collaboration with matching partner institutions. The Arts Council offers residency and coaching programmes, support for promotional measures, and contributions towards public presentations.

With its compass call for applications launched in 2023, Pro Helvetia supports promising young performing arts companies for two years in their international network building and strategic tour planning. Among the beneficiaries was the Geneva-based collective Ouinch Ouinch.

The mentoring programme ‘SwissGames Showcase’ provides customised coaching for young game design studios and helps them forge contacts within the industry.

In the visual arts sector, support is provided for art spaces that organise curatorial initiatives for emerging artists from Switzerland. In 2023, for example, the Lausanne art space Tunnel Tunnel received a contribution to its annual programme.

Pro Helvetia is attuned to important developments in the contemporary arts and culture scene and supports projects that provide fresh impetus to culture in Switzerland.

. In 2023, grant recipients included ‘Forum Tanz’, the Swiss dance scene’s annual get-together. Under the heading ‘Artistic Processes – Safe Spaces’, artistic processes and working conditions were analysed and discussions held on how creative processes can be embedded in a secure framework.

In the field of literature, one of the projects supported was ‘Weiter Schreiben Schweiz’, which enables exiled authors who are often banned from publishing in their home countries to continue writing in Switzerland. The authors are assisted in forging links to the local literary scene, in translating their texts from the original language to one of Switzerland’s national languages, in publishing their translated texts, and in organising readings or workshops.

Pro Helvetia supports art outreach projects that are exemplary and encourage the public to engage critically with the arts and culture.

With its 2023 ‘Expanding Perspectives’ call for applications, Pro Helvetia supported projects that seek new and creative ways of networking and exchange.

The specialist jury awarded grants to 11 projects, including ‘PAV living room’, which questions traditional forms of urban design and initiated a model of participatory urban planning in Geneva that involves the local population.

Pro Helvetia promotes the dissemination of works by arts and cultural practitioners from Switzerland who are invited by important institutions, event organisers or festivals abroad. Grants for this purpose are awarded for theatre and dance productions, concert and reading tours, exhibitions and translations.

In 2023, recipients included the musician Baby Volcano, who was invited to several summer festivals in Europe such as Printemps de Bourges (FR) and Haldern Pop (DE).

In the performing arts, a new call for applications was launched in 2023 for development grants, which aim to enable experienced, internationally active groups to reflect on their ways of working, expand their skillset or embark on a new approach.

Supported by Pro Helvetia, artist Miriam Cahn presented her first comprehensive retrospective in France at the Palais de Tokyo. Her picture ’Fuck abstraction!’ in the exhibition ’Ma pensée sérielle’ sparked some controversial discussions about the presentation of violence and war.

With a broad range of promotional measures, Pro Helvetia contributes to keeping arts and culture from Switzerland on the radar of international event organisers.

In 2023, it organised the ‘House of Switzerland Milano’ for the second time within the context of Milano Design Week, in close collaboration with Presence Switzerland and numerous partner organisations. In doing so, it provided Swiss designers, design studios, brands and institutions with a platform for international visibility.

Support from Pro Helvetia also enabled Comics Network Switzerland to participate at the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême, the most important European get-together of the comics scene.

2023 saw the last edition of ‘Cahiers d’Artistes’, with eight emerging artists from Switzerland publishing their first art monograph.

Pro Helvetia supports swiss participation or programmes with a special focus on Switzerland at numerous internationally renowned art fairs, biennials and events.

In coordination with the Centre culturel suisse (CCS), for example, contributions were provided for the focus on Switzerland at the Centre Pompidou 'Move' festival, which presents a panorama of contemporary Swiss creation in the performing and visual arts.

The two-year pilot project ‘OFF Stage Switzerland’, initiated by Pro Helvetia, is a new component of the Swiss presence at the Frankfurt book fair besides the traditional Swiss collective booth and the mentoring programme ‘Frankfurter Seilschaften’. The project draws on the potential for change unleashed by the fundamental transformation of the book fair, impacting both the book industry and audiences. OFF Stage Switzerland offers a curated programme that increases the visibility of the diverse and multilingual Swiss literary scene at the world’s most important book fair.

One of the exhibitions at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice was ‘Neighbours’ by artist Karin Sander and architecture historian Philip Ursprung. With their work, they explored the history and the physical proximity of the Swiss Pavilion to its Venezuelan counterpart, thereby offering fresh perspectives on the territorial relationships among the buildings at the ‘Giardini della Biennale di Venezia’.

Pro Helvetia promotes international cultural exchange through residencies, knowledge exchange and cooperation projects, which enable arts and cultural practitioners from Switzerland to expand their networks, become acquainted with new cultural contexts, and broaden their professional experience.

For the first time in 2023, a Swiss delegation of game designers took part at the Africa Games Week in Cape Town boosting Switzerland’s international exchange activities in game design. One of the topics highlighted by the delegation was women in games, related to the pilot programme 'She Got Game', which was carried out for the second time in 2023.

Support also went to ‘Norient City Sounds’, a project that explores and documents the sound of cities around the world.

Pro Helvetia also keeps an eye open for new networks, regions and markets that offer potential for more intensive exchange or greater presence of arts and culture from Switzerland. The main focus is on building and cultivating partnerships with regional event organisers.

In collaboration with Róng Design Library and Pro Helvetia Shanghai, a residency programme for design practitioners from Switzerland was launched in 2023. Five participants were given the opportunity to spend one month exploring and deconstructing traditional Chinese handicraft techniques and materials.

As part of its extended support offer in the field of photography, Pro Helvetia and the European photography platform futures launched a new call for applications aimed at Swiss photography institutions. As a result, three Swiss institutions were selected as members of the futures platform, who can each choose two emerging photographers who then receive access to international networks and benefit from specific campaigns.

In connection with its Art, Science and Technology focus Pro Helvetia launched the Art, Science and Technology Directory, which is intended to strengthen links between artists, cultural organisations, scientific and technology organisations.

With the support of Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, Basel-based jazz musician Kesivan Naidoo toured South Africa with his ‘Big Band Experience’ in summer 2023. For this homecoming tour, trombonist Adrian Mears rearranged the 2014 album ’Brotherhood’ by drummer Kesivan Naidoo for the big band, an ensemble of 18 young musicians from South Africa and Switzerland.

Pro Helvetia Johannesburg also supported the research and exchange programme ’Travel Somewhere Nice’, organised and implemented by three cultural institutions from Uganda. This initiative brought together artists and scientists from Ghana, Uganda and Switzerland for a 14-day excursion aimed at strengthening cross-regional encounters, knowledge dissemination, and artistic and cultural exchange.

In 2023, Pro Helvetia Cairo supported the participation of Jenna Hendry and Matilda Bilberg in the festival IDEA – International Dance Encounter Amman in Jordan. The dancers and choreographers presented their piece ’I U M I’, which uses the motif of an embrace to question the closeness of intimacy and privacy.

Pro Helvetia Cairo and the Music division also supported Swiss music and culture professionals’ presence at 'Visa for Music', an international fair and showcase festival in Rabat, Morocco. El Mizan, a band from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, was chosen for a showcase, and a Swiss delegation of event organisers visited Rabat to gain insights into the music market in the Arab region and to establish important contacts.

Despite the suspension of support for all public activities in Russia, the Pro Helvetia Moscow team maintained partnerships and exchanges between the Swiss art scene and the independent Russian art scene.

Supported initiatives in 2023 included the digital art residency 'Digital AIR', initiated by the Fabrika Centre for Creative Industries and the 8XR Game Studio. Five artists collaborated for five months to familiarise themselves with the virtual platform.

Another supported project was 'Call a Friend 2.0.22' by Oksana Yushko and Aishat Adueva, which brought together artists from Russia, Georgia and Switzerland for multidisciplinary workshops, discussions and encounters to explore how new crises and past traumas are shaping the cultural landscape and how professional exchange can be sustained.

Pro Helvetia New Delhi supported four co-creation projects in 2023, including ’Hallucinations of an Artifact’ by Indian choreographer Mandeep Raikhy and Swiss artist Jonathan O’Hear, who brought an ancient artefact to life through dance and artificial intelligence.

Additionally, the partner project 'Connect India' was supported, allowing Swiss artist Elisa Storelli and Indian artist Rohini Devasher to develop an artistic project during their dual residency at the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) in Bengaluru and Cern in Geneva.

With support from the New Delhi office, Swiss writer Rolf Hermann participated in the ‘Bhutan Echoes: Drukyul’s Literature Festival’ in 2023, leading a workshop on poetry.

With the support of Pro Helvetia Shanghai, six artists from China and Switzerland embarked on a six-week journey through China as part of the 'When Future Meets the Past' collaborative research project. The project aimed to raise awareness of the history, local traditions and ethnic cultural heritage of the Guizhou mountain region and its future potential. The research findings were presented in musical, visual and performative formats at Artra (Shanghai International Arts Festival).

The Shanghai office also supported the 'Readings of Plays by Swiss Writers' project, where significant contemporary German-language plays were translated into Chinese and presented to local audiences through staged readings. In 2023, these were the texts ’Die toten Freunde’ by Ariane Koch and ‘Die Hand ist ein einsamer Jäger’ by Katja Brunner.

Supported by Pro Helvetia South America, the long-term project 'Fungi Cosmology' was launched in 2023, exploring the realm of fungi at the intersection of art and science. The programme brings together artists, curators and scientists from Brazil, Chile and Switzerland and includes lectures, workshops and expeditions in Manaus (Brazil), Patagonia (Chile) and the Alps (Switzerland).

In the performing arts, the South American office supported the Swiss focus at the Cali International Dance Biennial in Colombia, showcasing five works by contemporary Swiss artists. The artists toured other Colombian cities and various South American countries before and after the festival.

The Centre culturel suisse (CCS) in Paris remains closed until 2025 due to construction work. Since September 2022, the CCS has therefore been active in various cities in France with its multidisciplinary ’CCS on Tour’ programme, presenting Swiss art in collaboration with partner institutions.

In January, the tour stopped in Lyon, offering exhibitions, performances, concerts, readings and literary encounters.

Further stops were made in Rennes and Bordeaux, where a special Swiss focus showcased Swiss contemporary art at the interdisciplinary Festival international des Arts de Bordeaux métropole (FAB).