This is a "short guide", area by area, for who wishes to know a little bit more about noticeable places for art/architecture in Geneva.
I am starting by Plainpalais as I know this area by heart, and proposes you an overview of everything you can see by walking around this no man's land called "plaine de Plainpalais".
(Of course please refer to the Guide for addresses, pictures, opening hours....)
If you wish some infos about places I haven't mentioned (since it is a selection... it can't be thorough), pm me ;)
Let's start by the Rue de Carouge. Nothing really noticeable on this street (Nice start, no ? ;)), excepted the Salle Communale that provides you a very good example of "Heimatstil", the Swiss National style from the Protected content , somewhere between a flashback to XIXth strictness and the crazyness of Art Nouveau (!!!) The inside is worth seeing it. If the door is open, do not hesitate to enter and make a visit. Or take the opportunity of an event (there are many ones organized there), or organize your own to have access to most of the Salle Communale.
The Theatre Pitoeff is also part of the building ( Protected content ), and in May you can go and have a look at a funny/weird/interesting festival "Archipel" ( Protected content ).
Okay, I know you're impatient because you can't really figure out what can be seen in Plainpalais, so enough with Rue de Carouge, let's now go to the Plaine ^^.
First, stop in front of Uni Mail. You can of course admire the building (the glass roof and front are quite impressive from inside), but you can also wonder about the curved iron thing erected in front of it. Well, no it's not a skate ramp but a sculpture given by Bernar Venet - the artist- to the city of Geneva... although if you wish to slide on it... tough luck !
Back to the Plaine, look up on the roofs around it : you might see some sentences floating at the top of some buildings. Unless you've really tried to use the Venet sculpture as a ramp, you are not hallucinating. You DO really see : "YES TO ALL" by Sylvie Fleury and "BREATH" by Jérôme Leuba, both Genevan artists. Those neon installations are part of a long term project Protected content which should include some more different lights within a few years. I'm personally impatiently waiting for step 2 of the project. This will be fun... (in an artistic way of course). Go on the website for more infos !
Now you are right in the middle of the Plaine. Imagine the bise biting your cheeks and freezing your hands (don't thank me for that, you could have waited for spring...). You're all by yourself and need something to cheer your mind up. Of course you can go to rue de l'Ecole de Medecine to try out some bars, but no... don't stop and go straight to the TSR building, then turn on right. You arrive in front of the MEG (Musée d'Ethnographie), its indian totems and its nice exhibitions. Want to know everything about ways of conceptualizing death in the subsaharian civilization between Protected content Protected content ? you're at the right place, fella ;)
I'm kidding. The museum is worth a visit and the employees are really welcoming; the place is very entertaining for kids as well.
Since you're at the crossing of Carl Vogt and Rue des Bains, let's jump to the self-promoted area of Contemporary Art in Geneva, called "quARTier des Bains" : 13 galleries + Mamco + BAC.
I won't say much about the Mamco; only that if you are looking for some french and swiss contemporary art, feel free to go there. If you know that there is more interesting than this, follow me ! and let's enter the Centre d'Art Contemporain. It is the Geneva "Kunsthalle", and presents some international soon-famous-but-not-yet artists. The choices of the curator are interesting, as well as the exhibition space.
Oh by the way, just to tell you : the whole building, called SIP, also contains a night club, some studios, some artists/architects/designers workshops... and was previously a factory of physical instruments.
It is now welcoming 4 "museums" for contemporary art... all half empty because they can't afford new acquisitions or exhibitions. This is a major problem in Geneva : Money.. for Culture.
Coming back to the quARTier des Bains : the association is the real beating heart of the contemporary artistic life in the town. The galleries are presenting up to 8 exhibitions a year each, and some of them are/were of international scale. You will find them at Art Basel, Frieze, FIAC... presenting some artists like Cindy Sherman, Thomas Ruff, Maurizio Cattelan, Francis Bacon, Paul McCarthy... and their young followers. Those galleries are oganizing some grouped openings 3 times a year (september-march-may), please check the website for the dates.
Do not hesitate to push the doors, it is free, no one will force you to buy anything, and you will have as many explanations as in a museum if you wish so and if someone is available for !
We have nearly ended our tour of Plainpalais. Now you can go and have a nice hot chocolate at Remor (Place du Cirque). The sun is gone, the lights are turning on everywhere, and the sky is of those deep blue that makes you feel time has stopped. Enjoy your this break and go to Uni Dufour to check that the time is going by slowly, no quickly, no no slowly... argh you can't really say, those Protected content and green counters are all changing at different rythms ! This is "Fortress of Human Rights", an installation by artist Tatsuo Miyajima. Every speed has been initiated by a different genevan citizen when the work was launched, but the concept deserves more than a few lines, and I'm not aiming at explaining what the artist did so well on Protected content .
This is the end of the walk in Plainpalais. You can end the night around the Place Neuve, at a bar of Usine, in the old town.... or take a tram to the next area... I let you here :)