Our Offices & Partners Abroad

For detailed information please click on the offices and cultural centres below. For further information on the headquarters in Zurich please go to: www.prohelvetia.ch

Visual Arts

“Sad Boy” by Nicola Genovese at WAM [Johannesburg]

Sad Boy

Opening: Tuesday 1 of August at 18.00 with performance “Backlash 3: A Storm of Roses” at 18.30

WAM wesbite

“Sad Boy” is a solo exhibition by Italian born, Zurich based artist Nicola Genovese exploring the male body and masculinities through a new collection of work combining sculpture and performance. The exhibition opens on 1 August 2023 with a performance titled “Backlash 3: A Storm of Roses” at Wits Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is on view until 16 October 2023.

Comprising sculptural works, “sculptural activations” and performance, “Sad Boy” aims to engender and embody new perspectives on the male body and performed masculinity. “In my performances and sculptures, I aim to challenge the strict division between normative and non-normative bodies, exposing the paradoxes of oversimplified categories,” Nicola explains. “The male body is not the monolithic, invincible entity often portrayed in popular culture. Instead, it is a site of potential vulnerability and weakness, capable of being damaged and in need of repair.”

The bodies depicted in the artworks are in a state of transformation, where animal traits mingle with human ones. He is particularly interested in how ornamentation can be used to subvert dominant power structures, highlighting the potential for rebellion and resistance. The exhibition text reveals Nicola’s use of the grotesque as a tool to expose men’s attempts to hold and gain power:

The concept of the grotesque has come to be synonymous in English with the monstrous or the experience of horror. The original Italian etymology identifies the word to refer to something ‘out of the cave’, which survives in English as a different word, the ‘grotto’. Genovese plays with the notion of the monstrous and that which emerges from the depths in this exhibition but also performs a series of gently but insistently playful performances and material strategies to recontextualise the idea of the male body in our time. In this way his conception of the grotesqueries of the male body become also carnivalesque, that ancient understanding of the movement between rationality and playful magic, between the physical and the spiritual, or perhaps also the monstrous, realms.

Genovese’s approach as a whole redefines the ‘monstrosity’ of the straight white male by reframing, in performative, theatrical and object narratives in video and sculpture, the history of the grotesque. More than this it offers a reframing of the question of who men think they are.    


Nicola Genovese is an Italian born, Zürich based visual artist, musician and performer. He completed a Master in Fine Arts at Zurich University of the Arts in 2017 and a PhD in Artistic Practice at Wits University in Johannesburg (South Africa) in 2023. The thematic focus of his work is on issues around the topic of masculinities and their entanglement with the grotesque and the carnivalesque. He has shown his installations and performances at Le Commun Genève, Helmhaus Zürich, Haus Konstruktiv Zürich, Rote Fabrik Zürich, Südpol Luzern, Pasquart Biel, Cabaret Voltaire Zürich, Kulturfolger Zürich, HDLU Zagreb, Kunstraum Aarau, Shedhalle Frauenfeld, Museum Rietberg, Zoologisches Museum Zürich, Schwarzwaldallee Basel and Sonnenstube Lugano, among others.