Culture & Nightlife

‘People leave behind much stranger things’

Interview: Eva Hediger

Have you ever left an oil portrait on a tram? Some people have. At the bazaar, Alessa Widmer and her team exclusively sell artwork that has been left behind on public transport.

The art that you sell at the bazaar comes from the Fundsachenverkauf lost property shop in Wollishofen. Unlike abandoned clothes, works of art are rarely sold there. Why is this?

People who are interested in art rarely wander into the Fundsachenverkauf shop. This is where you go to find clothes or electronic devices, like mobile phones or iPods. This has been the case since the Fundsachenverkauf shop opened fourteen years ago. This is why the manager of the shop – who happens to be my father – started to put artwork to one side. In 2017, Carla Peca and I put these pieces on display in a large exhibition and then sold them. It was a very memorable event. Ever since, we have been asked constantly whether we will be putting on another art sale. And now we’ve decided it’s time.


Every piece that you sell was left on public transport. How does something like that happen?

We all move around so much these days and are always so busy. We are often on our phones when we’re on a train or tram and have lots of bags with us. So, it’s easy to leave something behind. Besides, people leave behind much stranger things – such as urns, valuable watches or prosthetic legs.

Are you really selling all artwork that has been found over the last two years?

Yes. This includes oil paintings, lithographs, smaller prints and mainly lots of posters. We also have some entire artist portfolios on sale.

‘We are often on our phones when we’re on a train or tram and have lots of bags with us. So, it’s easy to leave something behind.’


What happens if someone recognises a picture at the exhibition?

According to the Swiss Code of Obligations, claims of ownership expire after one year. But we are always interested if someone can tell us more about a picture. At the last exhibition, some people recognised some pieces by local artists. We also try to do some background research into particularly interesting paintings ahead of the sale.

Thrift store sometimes sells some quite amateur works. Do you sell pieces like this too?

Yes. There is plenty of artwork by non-professional artists that is still artistically appealing. But we also have paintings by famous artists.


Alessa (second from the left) and her team

What is the most valuable painting?

A very old oil portrait. We are still trying to settle on the price. Carla and I value a lot of the pieces ourselves. We are studying for Master’s degrees in Art History and have worked in several galleries. If we are unsure, we consult experts. But it isn’t like we sell artwork that is worth several thousand francs. It’s not about profit for us. We want people to buy art, who may not have done if they hadn’t discovered it here.


Do you have any lost works of art of your own at home?

Yes, quite a few pieces. The thing I find most exciting is that I know nothing about them. We often don’t know how old the painting is or who painted it. This makes me look at the piece in a completely different light compared to one that I know a lot more about – you can be much more impartial.


Kein Museum
Mutschellenstrasse 2
8002 Zurich


The Fundkunst bazaar will take place on Friday 1 March between 7 pm and 10 pm and on Saturday 2 March between 10 am and 8 pm.