H. R. Giger (Hans Rudolf Giger) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost artists of Fantastic Realism. Born in 1940 to a chemist’s family in Chur, Switzerland, he moved in 1962 to Zurich, where he studied architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts. By 1964 he was producing his first artworks, mostly ink drawings and oil paintings, resulting in his first solo exhibition in 1966, followed by the publication and world-wide distribution of his first poster edition in 1969. Shortly after, he discovered the airbrush and, along with it, his own unique freehand painting style, leading to the creation of many of his most well-known works—the surrealistic Biomechanical dreamscapes, which formed the cornerstone of his fame. From the onset of his career, Giger also worked in sculpture and had an abiding desire to extend the core elements of his artistic vision beyond the confines of paper into the 3D reality of his surroundings. To date, more than 20 books have been published about Giger’s art and in recent years he has also been honored in a series of major museum retrospectives.
“Bob Venosa, a fellow painter who often used to be entertained by the surrealist Salvador Dali – they lived in the same village, Cadaquès in Spain (Venosa must have moved there to live close to Dali) – had taken my catalogue to show him. He asked Dali what he thought of my work. Dali obviously approved of it, for he showed the catalogue to the producer Alexandre Jodorowsky, who intended to film the “Dune” trilogy by Frank Herbert.”
Nothing came from this project but Giger did get a contact with Dan O’Bannon who was to do the special effects (see also ” Lifeforce” , another movie) for the trilogy. Later O’Bannon, together with a friend of his called Shushett, wrote the synopsis of “Alien” and contacted Giger. Giger sent his ” Neronomicon I” book to O’Bannon and it is this book that convinced 20thCentury Fox and Ridley Scott to jump in. Alien was Giger’s first film assignment. It earned him the 1980 Oscar for the Best Achievement in Visual Effects for his designs of the film’s title character and the stages of its lifecycle, plus the film’s the otherworldly environments. Giger’s other film works include Poltergeist II, Alien3 and Species.
Giger’s album covers for Debbie Harry and the band ELP were voted among the 100 best in music history in a survey of rock journalists. Throughout his career, Giger also worked in sculpture and, in 1988, created his first total environment, the Tokyo Giger Bar, and in 1992 a second Giger Bar in Chur.
The HR Giger Museum was inaugurated in the summer of 1998 in the Château St. Germain. The four-level building complex in the historic, medieval walled town of Gruyères, Switzerland is the permanent home to many of the artist’s most prominent works. It houses the largest collection of the artist’s paintings, sculptures, furnitures and film designs, dating from the early 1960′s until the present day. Displayed on the museum’s top floor is Giger’s own private collection of more than 600 works by artists such as Salvador Dali, Ernst Fuchs, Dado, Bruno Weber, Günther Brus, Claude Sandoz, François Burland, Friedrich Kuhn, Joe Coleman, Sibylle Ruppert, Andre Lassen, among many others.
The HR Giger Museum Bar, located in the adjoining wing of the museum complex, opened on April 12, 2003. Giger’s designs for the bar emphasizes the pre-existing Gothic architecture of the 400 year old space. The giant skeletal arches covering the vaulted ceiling, together with the bar’s fantastic stony furniture, evoke the building’s original medieval character and give the space a church-like feeling.
Since 1999, in an effort to help broaden the appreciation of his museum visitors for other Fantastic and Surrealist artists, Giger has utilized a three room exhibition space as The H.R. Giger Museum Gallery where, on a continuing basis, he features the works of other masters in this genre. Artists already shown have been Wessi, Prof. Ernst Fuchs, Hans Bellmer, Fred Knecht, Stelio Diamantopoulos, Martin Schwarz, Claude Sandoz, Günther Brus, François Burland, Rudolf Stüssi, The Society for Art of Imagination and Victor Safonkin.
Giger has been honored with a series of major museum retrospectives. In 2004 was the opening of a six-month exhibition at the Museum Halle Saint Pierre in Paris, France, the largest exhibition of the artist’s work to ever take place outside of Switzerland. Over one year in preparation, ninety percent of the artwork was on loan from Giger’s collectors, including three Swiss museums. The display of more than 200 pieces spanned four decades of the celebrated artist’s career, covering two floors of the museum’s exhibition space. On December 17, 2004, H.R. Giger received the prestigious award, “La Médaille de la Ville de Paris”, at Paris City Hall.
The Paris retrospective was followed by an exhibition of equal scope in 2005 at the National Technical Museum of Prague, in the Czech Republic and in 2006 at the Kunsthaus Wien, in Austria. In July, 2007 Giger had his first museum exhibition Switzerland at the Bundner Kunstmuseum, in the city of his birth, Chur.
Kunst Haus Wien again hosted a second retrospective exhibition “H.R. Giger – Dreams and Visions” in 2011. Professor Ernst Fuchs was invited as the special guest speaker to say some words about Giger and his artwork. He is known to have greatly influenced HR Giger. Both are close and long standing friends and are known to greatly admire each other’s vast catalogue of works.
H.R. Giger lived and work in Zurich with his wife, Carmen Maria Giger, co-director of the Giger Museum.
HR Giger died from injuries sustained because of a fall on Monday the 12th of May 2014. After tripping and falling down stairs at his Zurich home, he was rushed to hospital where he later passed away, aged 74.
- CG Society Feature Article
- H R Giger Steve’s Ten Blog
- H.R. Giger Wikipedia.org
- Expeditions and Exhibitions