The Confederation awards various prizes and awards to honour the achievements of Swiss artists and thus draw attention to their importance at national and international level. The Confederation’s awards and prizes are a means of promoting art and culture. The Federal Office of Culture is responsible for the Swiss Prizes, which honour outstanding works, while the Grand Prix honours the careers of artists.
Based on a competitive process and portfolio submissions, prizes are awarded for productions and works that are particularly innovative or original, that pursue unusual approaches, and that demonstrate professional execution. Awards and honours, however, are conferred based on prior nomination by extra-parliamentary commissions named by the Federal Council (no portfolio submissions) and are meant to acknowledge a long-standing and important artistic career.
Prizes are awarded in art (art, architecture, and education), design, literature, dance, theatre, and music. The Swiss Prizes are often awarded in the context of important events in the various fields (Art Basel, LabelSuisse Festival, Swiss Theater Encounter).
From 2021, and in addition to a Swiss Grand Prix Performing Arts / Hans Reinhart Ring, the Federal Office of Culture will award 2-3 dance prizes, 6-7 theatre prizes and one prize each for a dance and a theatre production in the field of the performing arts. A special award for children’s and youth literature will also be established to honour a body of work.
Schweizerkulturpreise.ch is the central resource on the culture awards presented by the Federal Office of Culture.
Cantons and cities also award prizes and special awards, for instance, in recognition of particular services to bringing the arts and culture to a wider audience. Cultural awards are also conferred in the form of annual scholarships (“Werkjahre” (one year scholarships; “sabbatical years”; City of Zurich: 48 000 CHF per year) and work grants for outstanding achievements including in literature, electronic music, theatre, dance, jazz/rock/pop, interdisciplinary projects, and comics (e.g. “Werkbeiträge”/ “Kreationsbeiträge”; “Contributions”/ “bourses”) of between 10 000 and 30 000 CHF each). Funding instruments for artists’ and artist-related promotion also include: production or performance contributions, contributions for publications (monographs, artists’ books, specialist publications), studio and travel grants, contributions to travel and transport costs for the participation of artists in exhibitions, festivals, fairs outside the respective region and contributions for arts and audience outreach projects (“Kulturvermittlung”; e.g. Basel-City: between 15 000 and 30 000 CHF).
Smaller cantons and cities do not have such a multitude of schemes. They support artists in a more project-based way, for example, with state-lottery funding. Some cities jointly own artists’ studios abroad.
Private cultural foundations and associations commission annual works in different sectors of the arts and culture and provide studios abroad for artists (these studios are often owned by the foundations or associations). Swiss foundations also play a role in the international field of art. For example, the Roswitha Haftmann Foundation Prize, worth 150 000 CHF, is the highest endowed European art prize.
An impressive directory of private and public grant-making institutions is available at https://www.culturalpromotion.ch/en/