A Marriage of Art and Science

Artists and scientists exchanging ideas

Cosmic Song is a work of art and cosmic ray detector embedded in the floor of the Visitors entrance – Building 33, at CERN and was made in collaboration with the CERN workshops in 1987. It lights up with the constant rain of cosmic ray particles from outer space as visitors stand on the sculpture. The piece is made by the French artist Serge Moro

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has developed three unusual artist-in-residence programs that encourage the exchange of creative ideas between artists and scientists.  It is hoped that the ground-breaking program, and the  technology that explores the fundamental secrets of the universe can be a new force for human creativity.

Artists of all disciplines work as artists in residence at the laboratory, where they can both be inspired by the science and inspire the scientists to make new discoveries. While protons collide in the machinery at unimaginable speeds and perhaps reveal some of the secrets of the universe, the artists and scientists “collide” in ways that may help make some of these secrets more understandable to the human imagination. With this initiative, the chasm between the arts and the sciences may finally be bridged.

The laboratory, located in Geneva, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers for scientific research in the world.

ATLAS mural at CERN by Josef Kristofoletti


The first residency program, called Collide @ CERN, was launched in 2011, and combines a maintenance grant and prize money for the selected artist. The program “collides” the imaginations of artists with the minds of scientists to create new work.

The arts at CERN comes under the auspices of CERN’s Cultural Policy for Engaging with the Arts, Great Arts for Great Science.  The program is the leading art and science program that promotes a dialogue between artists and particle physics. It stimulates the creation of new expert knowledge in the arts through a connection with fundamental science. COLLIDE gives artists the opportunity to encounter the multi-dimensional world of particle physics.

Artists can apply online for the three-month residency and stipend of €10,000 that comes with the chance to be mentored by the CERN scientists and given a unique opportunity to experience the cutting edge of physics from the inside.

By forming partnerships with leading international arts organisations, CERN is allowing the “collision” to happen. Bill Fontana is the artist in residence, and the project’s creative patrons include Swiss architect Jacques Herzog, German photographer Andreas Gursky, British sculptor Antony Gormley, British musician Brian Eno, Dutch wildlife artist Frans Lanting and Japanese artist Mariko Mori.

The COLLIDE International Award started as Prix Ars Electronica Collide @ CERN, in a three-year partnership (2011-2014) with Ars Electronica. It was funded by private sponsors, with the prize money supported by our cultural partner at the time, Ars Electronica, Linz. In 2015, the partnership carried on for one more year with COLLIDE Ars Electronica Award. As of 2016 the COLLIDE International Award is part of The COLLIDE CERN FACT Framework Partnership 2016-2018, in collaboration with FACT, The Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology in Liverpool, UK.

Gayle Hermick’s sculpture Wandering the Immeasurable, at the CERN site in Switzerland. (Photo Guillaume, Jeanneret, CERN).


CERN’s second art program ACCELERATE, is the country-specific, one-month artists residency award. This award is for artists who have never spent time in a science laboratory before, and is the sister of CERN’s flagship residency programme, COLLIDE.

Every year, the ministries or foundations, from two different countries, fund a different artistic domain to participate in the ACCELERATE Awards. The winners receive a stipend of 5,000 CHF for their one-month residency at CERN, and a budget covers accommodation, subsistence and travel costs. The awards are made following open calls in each country, and the jury is made up of the cultural partners as well as representatives from Arts at CERN, including scientists from CERN.

The 2016 awards were

ACCELERATE Lithuania In collaboration with Rupert, and

ACCELERATE UAE – Supported by The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, ADMAF.

The 2017 awards are

ACCELERATE Croatia Award In collaboration with Kontejner, and

ACCELERATE Korea Award In collaboration with ARKO

On 20 May 2005, the well-known Swiss artist Gianni Motti went down into the LHC tunnel and walked around the 27 kilometres of the underground ring at an average, unaccelerated pace of 5 kph. This was an artistic performance, aimed at drawing a parallel between the fantastic speed of the beams produced by the future accelerator and the leisurely stroll of a human. The artist, who originally hails from Lombardy, was accompanied by cameraman Ivo Zanetti, who filmed the event from start to finish, and CERN physicist Jean-Pierre Merlo.


CERN’s third residency program is Guest Artists. Initiated in 2016, artists with an extensive internationally recognized career, are invited to visit CERN for a short period, to learn about what the laboratory offers to arts and creativity, from an interdisciplinary approach.

James Brindle was awarded Honorary Mention of Collide International in 2016. He is a British writer, artist, publisher and technologist, currently based in Athens. His work covers the intersection of literature, culture and the network. His current research, on the impact of information technologies into knowledge, brought him to CERN.

Tomás Saraceno was the first Guest Artist of the year. His work is an ongoing research, informed by the worlds of art, architecture, natural sciences, astrophysics and engineering. During the past decade, he has initiated collaborations with scientific institutions that have included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Max Planck Institute, the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, and institutions of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group, among them Imperial College and the Natural History Museum London. He came to CERN to discuss ideas in cosmology and particle physics with scientists.

Pascal Dusapin, from France is interested in a diverse variety of fields, from morphogenesis to philosophy, from photography, to architecture, to the theatre of Samuel Beckett, to Flaubert’s work, among others. The French musician and composer Pascal Dusapin will be visiting CERN on 21-22 November for deep exploration in high energy physics.

More information about the CERN program is available from

Monica Bello, Head of Arts at Monica.Bello@CERN.ch  and

Julian Calo, Coordinator of Arts at  Julian.Calo@CERN.ch

CERN’s Advisory Board includes

Andrea Bellini – Director of Centre d’Art Contemporain de Genève

Frédérick Bordry – Director of Accelerators and Technology CERN

Assoc. Prof. Bilge Demirköz at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.

Ariane Koek – Founder and former Head of Arts@CERN

Laurent Le Bon – President of Picasso Museum in Paris

CERN Particle Accelerator










Swiss Re Art Commissions: In Close Collaboration with Artists

In the business environment, where it is often difficult to establish a perception of why one company’s products are better than another, a company has to find a way to stand apart from its competitors.   Swiss Re, the Swiss re-insurance company, has established its image by integrating art and architecture and focusing predominantly on commissioned art projects.

We recognize both art and architecture for having aesthetic and symbolic value and for significantly contributing to the company’s brand positioning and corporate identity.”

Sloping Progress, Wall mural by Sol Lewitt, 13 x 23 meters, © 2016, ProLitteris, Zurich. Image copyright Sefan Altenburger

Swiss Re’s art collection includes about 4,000 works, placed in company locations around the world. It includes a wide range of formats and media: paintings, photographs, sculptures, drawings and graphic art. The most prominent projects and installations are in Zurich, Adliswil, Rüschlikon, London and Armonk/NY.

Initially the collection was devoted exclusively to recent contemporary art in Switzerland. Following the growing international activities of the company in the 1990s, acquisitions soon branched out into international contemporary art.

One of the hallmarks of Swiss Re’s collection is the commissioned art that has been produced in close collaboration with the artists. These works have a direct link to architecture and make a geographical reference to the locations. They are all displayed in accessible public areas of Swiss Re’s buildings — in reception areas, meeting rooms as well as offices.  Invigorating and inspiring, these works create synergies between staff members and forge new links between employees and their working environment.

Commissions include artworks by Carl Andre, John Armleder, Angela Bulloch, Olafur Eliasson Robert Irwin, Sol Lewitt, Tatsuo Miyajima, Anselm Reyle, Ugo Rondinone, Adrian Schiess, Martha Schwartz, Nicole Toroni, Sylvie Fleury, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Olivier Mosset

The company understands that art says different things to different people, stimulates discussions and inspires people to see things from unusual angles. So the reason for promoting art internationally is to encourage a dialogue — all acquisitions and art-related projects are based on this core belief. Swiss Re commissions and seeks artworks that meet specific objectives and suit concrete office situations, while ensuring that new projects always complement and extend the primary focus of the impressive collection.

Set of 4 transfer prints on Trevia textile, 170 x 210 each, by Shirana Shahbazi, 1974. Image copyright Stefan Altenburger. Swiss Re Collection

The innovative architecture and design of Swiss Re’s Centre for Global Dialogue reflect its function as a platform for open and stimulating dialogue. The Centre is home to fine examples of visual arts –the most notable, are the installations that blend the neo-Baroque villa and the natural beauty of the surrounding property. One of the most recent additions to the collection is Concrete Landscape by the Swiss contemporary artistic duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss commissioned to commemorate the Centre’s 10th anniversary in 2010.     (  Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue. See http://cgd.swissre.com/about/centre/art/   )

The art committee is made up of Swiss Re senior executives and well known external art experts: Walter B. Kielholz, Chairman Swiss Re and Chairman Art Committee;   Anne Keller, Head Art & Cultural Engagement, Swiss Re.

Swiss Re is one of the world’s leading reinsurers and the world’s largest life and health reinsurer. The company operates through more than 70 offices in over 30 countries. Swiss Re has been in the reinsurance business since its foundation in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863.

About the Sol LeWitt mural: 

Vast thick bands of bright, vibrant colours − yellow, red, purple, green, orange and blue sweep, swirl and undulate in gracious, serpentine lines from ceiling to floor across the large wall of the entrance hall of the Armonk office of Swiss Re. This has a powerful visual presence for anyone passing through the foyer.

The wall drawing was made after his death, using a set of instructions (a central aspect of his oeuvre). His work has often used the elements of simple forms − the square, the cube, the line − to produce what he called “logical systems”. Despite these seemingly rigorous parameters, LeWitt always enjoyed the fact that his instructions to be followed by those making such wall drawings always allowed for personal interpretations, the result being, as he noted, “different people make different work.”

LeWitt liked how the art became part of the architecture, and through this, more accessible to those who see it and, in a sense, are part of it. As LeWitt said: “Anyone who understands the work of art owns it.”

The mural was created through the collaboration of Vick Art Advisors in New York City.  An interesting film is available is available that shows the creation of the work.  See on the Vick Art Advisor website at:


Additional Information:

Swiss Re has an excellent web site with images of many of the commissioned works, and demonstrates that the art program develops  concepts tailored to specific buildings and concrete workplace situations.  http://art.swissre.com/