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Guidelines for Applicants: Visual Arts

These guidelines set out the procedure for applying for visual arts funding to the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. They also explain the assessment criteria, procedures, deadlines and appeals process. These guidelines supplement the Grant Ordinance of 27 November 2019 of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, as well as the Federal Act of 11 December 2009 on Culture Promotion and the Ordinance of 23 November 2011 on Culture Promotion.

Status: January 2023

1. General requirements

Pro Helvetia promotes the professional contemporary Swiss visual arts with a view to ensuring their diversity as well as their national and international reach. It supports the creation of new artistic works, the dissemination of Swiss art and culture outside Switzerland, international cultural exchange and exchange between Switzerland’s various linguistic regions. As a national foundation, Pro Helvetia supplements the promotional activities of Swiss cantons and municipalities and supports only projects that are cross-regionally or internationally recognised.

In the visual arts, Pro Helvetia supports fine arts, photography and architecture.

Projects in the fields of comics and graphic novels are supported through Pro Helvetia’s Literature division. More information: Guidelines for Applicants: Literature

To be eligible for support, projects must

  • have a clear connection to Switzerland
  • be of nationwide importance
  • be adequately co-funded by other public or private means

2. Funding measures

Applications may be submitted by artists, event organising institutions or publishers and other publishing institutions. The formats for which applications can be submitted are explained in the sections below (2.1. for artists, 2.2. for event organising institutions, 2.3 for publishers and other publishing institutions).

2.1 Artists

As a national foundation, Pro Helvetia supports artists with Swiss nationality or with permanent residence in Switzerland, who are firmly established in the Swiss cultural scene and who regularly exhibit their work at recognised art venues with cross-regional reach.

Artists are here understood as persons who work in the fields of visual arts, photography or architecture, or who deal with these fields in a professional capacity.

Emerging artists: see the information on Pro Helvetia’s specific funding measures, chapters 2.1.5 / 2.2.3 / 2.2.4

2.1.1 Productions

i. Work grants

Pro Helvetia supports the creation of new works in the visual arts, photography or architecture. To be eligible for funding, applicants must provide a track record of independent, proven and cross-regionally recognised professional practice as well as have completed professional training. The work should contribute to advance the applicant’s artistic practice.

Restrictions:

Only one application may be submitted per person per call for applications. If Pro Helvetia receives more than one application from an applicant, only the first application received will be considered and subsequent ones will be rejected.

Artists who receive a work grant may not send an application for the next call for applications (e.g. positive decision for application with deadline 1 March, no application possible under call for applications with deadline 1 September of the same year).

1. Research grants

A research grant offers artists, photographers and architects the opportunity to pursue in-depth research and implementation processes. Artists may apply for grants of up to max. CHF 5,000. All the steps of a creative process potentially arising in connection with a new project (in-depth research, materials acquisition, material studies and other measures to facilitate the production of a work of art) are considered for funding.

Composition of application dossier

    • Description of the planned project, realisation plan, budget and financing plan (a single PDF)
    • Concise work documentation of maximum 20 pages covering the past three years (including links to videos etc.), CV including list of previous exhibition activities (all in a single PDF)

Funding
Maximum research contribution: CHF 5,000

2. Production grants

A production grant supports the creation of a new work. Artists may apply for grants up to max. CHF 25,000. Support is given to projects that are characterised by high artistic originality and quality, feasibility and the importance of the work in the applicant’s artistic development.

Composition of application dossier

    • Description of the planned project, realisation plan, budget and financing plan (a single PDF)
    • Concise work documentation of maximum 20 pages covering the past three years (including links to videos etc.), CV including list of previous exhibition activities (all in a single PDF)

Funding
Maximum research funding: CHF 25,000.

3. Grants for production with presentation

A grant for production and presentation supports the production of a new work as part of its first public presentation. Artists may apply for contributions up to max. CHF 25,000. Supported projects are characterised by their high artistic originality and quality, the importance of the work in the applicant’s artistic development and a convincing strategy for ensuring the public presentation of the work.

Composition of application dossier

    • Description of the planned project, realisation plan, budget and financing plan (a single PDF)
    • Concise work documentation of maximum 20 pages covering the past three years (including links to videos etc.), CV including list of previous exhibition activities (all in a single PDF)
    • Confirmation of event organiser

Funding
Maximum production funding including presentation: CHF 25,000.

Application deadlines: 1 March and 1 September; the first public event may take place no sooner than four months after the application deadline. These applications are evaluated by a jury.

Decision timeline: within four months of the application deadline.

ii. Cahiers d’Artistes

Cahiers d’Artistes are currently being evaluated; it is at present not possible to apply. Further information will follow in the course of 2023 on our website prohelvetia.ch.

2.1.2 Grants for photographic publications (photography books and digital formats)

Pro Helvetia supports photographic publication projects. Support may go to analog and digital publications, irrespective of the publication format. The grant aims to give photographers (incl. duos or collectives) an opportunity to develop previously unpublished work.

The publication should:

  • present a project in the field of artistic, documentary and/or applied photography;
  • convince by the quality of its editorial concept, the relevance of its topic(s), and its contemporary form of photographic expression;
  • be published or co-published by a professional publishing house or another publishing institution with cross-regional reach;
  • present a project that was not previously published in any form.

Funding:

Maximum funding: CHF 20,000.
Applications must be submitted by the photographer(s).

Composition of application dossier:

  • CV of the photographer(s) involved;
  • portfolio presenting a brief documentation of the photographers’ work to date;
  • editorial concept (graphics, format, texts if applicable);
  • layout of the publication;
  • copy of the contract between the publisher and the photographer(s);
  • strategy for marketing to audiences;
  • detailed budget and financing plan of the publication and its distribution, incl. statement of amount requested from Pro Helvetia.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.1.3 Curatorial research

Pro Helvetia supports research work of independent Swiss curators with a track record demonstrating a regular curatorial praxis of cross-regional or national significance. The sum awarded amounts to CHF 5,000 at most.

The contributions enable research on a topical artistic theme and/or research-related exchange with artists and academics. As a result, Pro Helvetia expects a research report that can be used as the basis for a future project (exhibition, programme or publication).

No support is provided if the research is part of a school or university curriculum or of a basic or advanced education or training course (incl. dissertations, diploma-related projects, university grant programmes, etc).

Composition of application dossier

  • Description of the research project (the research question must be clearly defined)
  • Information on the research method and the pursued goals
  • Rough time schedulen
  • Budget
  • CV of persons involved

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.1.4 Studio visits

Pro Helvetia supports (non-commercial) exchange between artists and curators or other specialists (all resident in Switzerland). A lump-sum of CHF 1,500 at most for two meetings is provided for (CHF 300 as fee for each participant, public transport expenses). If the specialist involved is on an employment contract (60% and more), only travel expenses will be covered. The dossier is composed of the CVs of the participating persons and a brief outline of the purpose of the exchange. Contact must be established before an application is submitted.

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.1.5  Emerging artists projects: residencies

In cooperation with various partners, Pro Helvetia supports specialised residency programmes that offer artists and curators mentoring programmes, access to international networks and initial exhibition opportunities.

Emerging artists

Pro Helvetia promotes emerging artists in cooperation with established institutions in Switzerland and abroad. The projects supported must be aimed at artists and cultural practitioners who demonstrate great artistic potential with a view to a national or international career, and must help them establish themselves firmly in the national and international professional environment. Support can be granted to artists in the first five years of their artistic career, either after completing their professional training or presenting their work in public for the first time.

More information: Promotion of emerging artists Visual Arts

Residencies are currently possible with the following partners

Calls and application deadlines for residencies are published on our website on an ongoing basis.

2.1.6 Residencies and research trips

i. Residencies (duration of up to three months)

Pro Helvetia supports residencies and research trips by visual arts practitioners (fine arts, photography and architecture) to and from the countries covered by its six liaison offices (Arab region, China, Russia, South America, South Asia, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa). Eligible are visual arts practitioners from Switzerland and from the regions covered by the liaison offices.

More information: Residencies

ii. Research trips (duration of up to four weeks)

Swiss visual arts practitioners may apply for research trips all over the world. Visual arts practitioners from the regions covered by the liaison offices may apply for research trips to Switzerland.

More information: Research trips

iii. Residencies in New York

In addition, Pro Helvetia offers residencies in New York for Swiss visual arts practitioners in cooperation with the Swiss Institute in New York.

More information: Residencies at the Swiss Institute New York

iv. Art, science and technology

Pro Helvetia supports residencies at the interface of art, science and technology in collaboration with CERN in Geneva, South Africa, India and Chile. These residencies are aimed at practitioners from all arts disciplines that are promoted by Pro Helvetia.

More information: Guidelines for Applicants: Innovation & Society

2.1.7 Critical reflection

Each year up to 2024, Pro Helvetia is launching a theme-based call for projects that is intended to stimulate opinion forming and critical discussions on the role of art and culture in society. Eligible for support are exemplary, transdisciplinary projects that seek new forms of critical reflection on contemporary art production and art criticism, and that appeal to different types of audiences.

More information: Guidelines for Applicants: Innovation & Society

2.2 Event organising institutions

Pro Helvetia supports publicly accessible projects at renowned cultural institutions or established art spaces that have a multi-annual national and/or international curatorial programme and cross-regional reach. Eligible are projects by institutions that regularly include contemporary art positions in their programme.

Pro Helvetia supports presentations by artists, photographers and architects who are Swiss citizens or have their permanent place of residence in Switzerland, who are well anchored in the Swiss cultural scene and who have a proven track record of regular exhibitions at recognised art venues of cross-regional reach.

To qualify for support, projects must ensure artists receive commensurate fees.

2.2.1 Events in Switzerland

Pro Helvetia promotes the presentation of contemporary Swiss artists staged by renowned cultural institutions or art spaces in Switzerland, provided that there is an exchange between various language regions through the presentation of artists mainly active in another language region.

The minimum duration of an exhibition is usually four weeks, with the exception of events such as festivals. Applications must be submitted by the cultural institutions or the organisers. To qualify for support, projects must ensure that artists receive commensurate fees and that the event organiser contributes to covering local costs (accommodation, meals).

Funding is available for

  • Transport and insurance costs
  • Equipment rental
  • Material costs for temporary works of art
  • Artist fees
  • Travel expenses for artists (without accommodation)

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.2.2 Events outside Switzerland

Pro Helvetia supports the presentation of contemporary Swiss artists abroad, staged by renowned cultural institutions or art spaces with an international reach.

The minimum duration of an exhibition is as a rule four weeks, with the exception of events such as festivals. Applications must be submitted by the cultural institutions or the organisers. To qualify for support, projects must ensure that artists receive commensurate fees and that the event organiser contributes to covering local costs (accommodation, meals).

Funding is available for

  • Transport and insurance costs
  • Equipment rental
  • Material costs for temporary works of art
  • Artist fees
  • Travel expenses for artists (economy, without accommodation)

Application deadlines: see Section 5

i. Knowledge exchange

Renowned event organisers may request funding to support knowledge exchange abroad. Funding is available for specialists and artists participating at public events (podiums, meetings, conferences, etc.) dealing with topics related to contemporary Swiss artistic creation (fine arts, photography, new media, performance and architecture). Funding is only available for travel costs (economy, no accommodation).

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.2.3 Emerging artists projects: grants for art spaces in Switzerland

Emerging artists

Pro Helvetia promotes emerging artists in cooperation with established institutions in Switzerland and abroad. The projects supported must be aimed at artists and cultural practitioners who demonstrate great artistic potential with a view to a national or international career and must help them establish themselves in Switzerland’s artistic scene as well as in small and medium-sized cultural institutions and on digital platforms (hereinafter referred to as art spaces). This is intended to make it easier for artists to enter the art scene and to gain initial exhibition experience. Art spaces may apply to Pro Helvetia either with an annual programme (for grants of up to CHF 15,000) or for individual project grants (up to CHF 5,000).

Pro Helvetia welcomes applications from art spaces in Switzerland that meet the following criteria:

  • Innovative and original curatorial approach and art outreach programme
  • High-quality programme
  • Continuous exhibition activities and regular opening hours
  • Cross-regional appeal
  • To be eligible for support, projects must ensure artists receive commensurate fees

Application dossiers for annual programmes must contain:

  • Detailed description of the curatorial concept and the planned programme including financing plan
  • List of participating emerging artists from Switzerland known at the time of submission (including year of birth, biographies, information on university degrees and visual documentation)
  • Details on the art space: history, focus (general concept, goals, positioning in Switzerland and possibly internationally)

Application dossiers for project grants must contain:

  • Project documentation
  • Information on the participating emerging artists from Switzerland (including year of birth, biographies, information on university degrees and visual documentation)
  • Details on the art space: history, focus (general concept, goals, positioning in Switzerland and possibly internationally)
  • Programme for the current and the previous year

Funding

Individual projects: CHF 5,000 at most
Annual programme (based on performance agreement): CHF 15,000 at most.

Funding is available for

  • Production costs
  • Transport and insurance costs
  • Equipment rental
  • Travel expenses for artists
  • Fees for artists, photographers, architects
  • Fees for curators

No funding is available for infrastructure and operating costs.

Application deadlines: 1 March and 1 September; the first public event may take place no sooner than eight weeks after the application deadline.

2.2.4 Emerging artists projects: contributions to presentations at art fairs

Emerging artists

Pro Helvetia promotes emerging artists in cooperation with established institutions in Switzerland and abroad. The projects supported must be aimed at artists and cultural practitioners who demonstrate great artistic potential with a view to a national or international career and must help them establish themselves firmly in the national and international professional environment. Support can be granted to artists in the first five years of their artistic career, either after completing their professional training or presenting their work in public for the first time.

Pro Helvetia supports presentations by emerging artists at major art fairs to give them international visibility and market access.

Contributions to presentations at art fairs are aimed at galleries that are planning to present an emerging artist at an art fair. Funding is available for individual exhibitions and presentations that take up at least 50% of the exhibition booth.

Applications must be submitted by the galleries. They can be submitted prior to applying to a specific art fair. In this case, funding will be subject to definitive confirmation of participation.

To qualify for support, galleries must meet the following criteria

  • Main activity as a gallery, with past experience of participation at international art fairs
  • Regular exhibition activity with regular opening hours in own business premises
  • Mediation of and dealing with contemporary art
  • Active for at least two years prior to application
  • High-quality programme
  • Size of exhibition booth: max. 35m2

Composition of application dossier

  • Project description including booth design
  • Copy of art fair application form
  • Details of the gallery and the art fair including event dates
  • Details of participating emerging Swiss artists (including years of birth, biographies including years of graduation and visual documentation)
  • Budget and financing plan including details of the funding requested from Pro Helvetia

Funding

Maximum funding: CHF 8,000.

Funding is available for

  • Booth rental
  • Transport and insurance costs
  • Equipment rental
  • Travel expenses for artists

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.2.5 Events combining artistic disciplines

This category refers to events or festivals that present productions from various artistic disciplines. As a rule, productions from at least three disciplines must be envisaged. Otherwise, applications must be submitted to the division primarily responsible for the event. Events combining different artistic disciplines are assessed according to the same criteria regarding form and content that apply to discipline-specific events. Particular importance is given to the criteria of the disciplines of which the productions are part of. Events combining artistic disciplines are supported in and outside Switzerland. In Switzerland, they are supported provided they present productions from Switzerland’s other language regions. Outside Switzerland, support is given to these events that present Swiss productions.

More information: Events combining artistic disciplines

2.3 Publishers and other publishing institutions

Pro Helvetia only supports projects by professional publishers and other publishing institutions with a cross-regional reach. To qualify for support, projects must ensure that the participating cultural practitioners receive commensurate fees.

2.3.1  Publications and other contextualising formats

Pro Helvetia supports projects that critically examine the current Swiss artistic production, or individual aspects of Swiss art, photography or architecture production from an overarching, contemporary perspective. Projects include analogue and digital publications (regardless of publication format) and presentations. To be eligible for funding, projects must be of national importance and not only address a specialist audience. No funding is available for commemorative publications or purely scientific projects.

Pro Helvetia’s Visual Arts division awards contributions to the production costs (analog and digital) of thematic publications of national importance and monographs on contemporary Swiss artists, irrespective of the nationality of the authors. In the case of magazines, a maximum of two projects per year can be supported.

Publications must

  • contain a substantial art-historical or art-critical text;
  • have a clear and well-researched (art historical) reference to contemporary Swiss art;
  • deal with the artist and/or the subject in light of new academic findings;
  • document a creative period of approximately ten years in the case of monographs.

Composition of application dossier

  • Table of contents and essential parts of the texts
  • Visual material, digital mock-up or parts thereof
  • Excerpt of the translation and an associated cost estimate

Application deadlines: see Section 5

3. Restrictions

Pro Helvetia is unable to consider funding requests if

  • the same part of the submitted project is already received funding from other federal bodies (e.g. Federal Office of Culture, Presence Switzerland, Swiss National Science Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation)
  • the project is part of a school or university curriculum/basic training or continuing education programme (including dissertations, diploma projects, university scholarships, etc.)
  • funding is intended to cover infrastructure and equipment costs, as well as the costs of operating cultural facilities, archives and collections
  • the project does not depend on funding from Pro Helvetia

The Visual Arts Division is unable to consider funding requests for

  • Projects focusing on historical positions or on the positions of deceased artists, photographers or architects
  • Exhibitions of private collections
  • Exhibitions by commercial galleries*
  • Knowledge exchange and exhibitions at schools, colleges and universities
  • Projects within the scope of trade shows*
  • Projects within the framework of prizes/awards and related events
  • Exhibition catalogues, commemorative publications, reference works, bibliophile editions as well as new and revised editions of publications
  • Self-published or paid publications

*With the exception of presentations at art fairs as part of promoting emerging artists (see 2.2.4).

4. Composition of application dossier

Funding applications submitted to Pro Helvetia must contain

  • Details on the persons involved in the project
  • Project description in conceptual and organisational terms
  • Place and date of public performance, publication or presentation
  • Detailed cost and financing planning including information on all financial assistance requested from third parties
  • Details on the amount requested from Pro Helvetia and cost justification
  • In the case of exclusively virtual projects, evidence of a convincing national or international online dissemination strategy must be provided

Funding applications for event organisers/institutions must also contain

  • Quotes for transport and insurance services

For further divisional requirements, please see the corresponding formats

Applications must be submitted via myprohelvetia.ch.

5. Application deadlines and decision timelines

Unless otherwise stated (see Section 2), the following application deadlines apply:

Application typeApplication deadlineDecision timeline
Funding requests up to CHF 25,000ongoing, up to eight weeks prior to the event/publicationwithin eight weeks
Funding requests between CHF 25,001 and 50,000ongoing, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
Funding requests over CHF 50'0001 September, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
1 December, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
1 March, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months
1 June, at the latest four months prior to the event/publicationwithin four months

6. Application processing

6.1 Preliminary Assessment

Pro Helvetia will only consider funding applications if

  • the submitted project meets the general funding requirements (see Section 1)
  • there is no valid reason for exclusion (see Section 3)
  • the application dossier is complete and has been submitted on time (see Sections 4 and 5)

6.2 Assessment of content and quality

Within the framework of the available funds, Pro Helvetia prioritises projects that most comprehensively meet the funding criteria.

Pro Helvetia assesses whether

  • the project corresponds to the funding activities described in Section 2
  • the project demonstrates high artistic and professional quality
  • the project is implemented according to professional standards
  • the costs are commensurate with the expected impact
  • a lasting impact can be expected

Pro Helvetia prioritises support for projects in the field of contemporary art and culture according to their degree of independence and professional competence as well as their social and thematic relevance.

Pro Helvetia expects the remuneration of the participating artists to be in line with the recommendations of their professional associations.

In assessing applications, Pro Helvetia attaches great importance to applicants using resources in an ecologically responsible manner. Pro Helvetia may assume related additional costs (e.g. journeys by train, CO2 compensation for flights). Such costs must be contained in the budget.

Pro Helvetia also expects event organisers to be committed to gender equality, diversity and equal opportunities.

6.3 Decision-making bodies

Applications which are reviewed by a jury: The decision on applications is taken by the director of Pro Helvetia on recommendation of a jury.

The following regulations apply to all other applications

  • Applications up to CHF 25,000: Decisions are taken by the responsible division of Pro Helvetia
  • Applications between CHF 25,001 and 50,000: Decisions are taken by the responsible sector head
  • Applications over CHF 50,000: Decisions are taken by the director of Pro Helvetia at the request of the committee of experts

In the case of multi-annual performance agreements, the amount of funding requested per year is decisive.

6.4 Decision notification

Funding decisions are communicated without a statement of reasons. On receipt of the decision, applicants can demand an official decision statement from Pro Helvetia against which an appeal can be lodged.

6.5 Obligations of recipients

The awarding of funding entails obligations for recipients. Pro Helvetia reserves the right to reduce the amount of funding or to demand that disbursed grants be restituted if recipients fail to meet their obligations. See Factsheet «Requirements for support recipients» (blue box above).

6.6 Disbursement

Pro Helvetia disburses funding only after examining the final report, which must include a statement of account. Advance payments are possible on request. Unless applicants notify Pro Helvetia of any delays, funding shall expire at the latest six (6) months after the project’s closing date as per the application dossier.

6.7 Appeals

Funding decisions taken by Pro Helvetia may be appealed within 30 days of receipt. Appeals must be filed with the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). Appeals must include the original application, as well as the grounds of the appeal and appropriate evidence, and must be signed by the appellant. The decision statement being appealed against needs to be enclosed as evidence. Appellants bear the costs of this procedure.

Appeals must be submitted to: Bundesverwaltungsgericht, Postfach, CH-9023 St. Gallen

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