2 December

Which were the most magnificent, lavish and heartfelt exhibitions this year? Today we hear from Patrik Steorn, director of the Gothenburg Museum of Art.

Edvard Munch, Scream, tempera and oil on cardboard, 1910s.

All is Life and Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch. The Loneliness of the Soul, Munch Museum, Oslo

Art is the point of the new Munch Museum in Oslo, not architecture. I especially enjoyed the exhibition All is Life, which took its starting point from a folder of images and texts left behind by Edvard Munch, but which in an associative manner and with a liberating mix of paintings, drawings, and prints demonstrated themes that run through his entire practice. Not to mention Tracey Emin in a real dialogue with Munch about the self and everyday life. MUNCH is an early Christmas present that opened in October – varied, curious, and fun-filled. Magnificent!

Conny Karlsson Lundgren, Our Journey to France (Mont des Tantes), film still, 2021.

The Ghost Ship and the Sea Change, Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Gothenburg 

Two installations stood out for me during this year’s edition of GIBCA. In Vanus Labor (2021), Salad Hilowle searched for the presence of the African diaspora in Swedish art history, found various of traces and fragments, and transformed them into a form of opera that was equal parts lavish and heartfelt, adding to and broadening the narrative. In Our Journey to France (Mont des Tantes) (2021), Conny Karlsson Lundgren delved into the activist legacy of the Röda Bögar (Red Gays) in Gothenburg. Photographs and diaries formed a story about casual sexual encounters and effeminacy as resistance, but also the difficulties in making the personal political. These two separate works share an ability to engage in history writing with an eye for that which has been ignored and transform archival studies into integrated works of art.

Otto, Girl in Chair, ca 1892.

In Lady Barclay’s Salon. Art and Photography Around 1900, Moderna Museet, Stockholm

This deep dive into Moderna Museet’s photography collection revealed encounters between art forms around the year 1900. A few select symbolist paintings by artists such as Eugène Jansson, Gustaf Fjaestad, Helmer Osslund, and August Strindberg were placed in a really generous presentation alongside Pictorialist photography by Julia Margret Cameron, Henry B Goodwin, Nicola Perscheid, Ferdinand Flodin, Uno Falkengren, and others. A brimming exhibition space with an intuitive and associative hanging gently pointed out the dreamlike formal idiom as a common ideal and opened up for a new understanding of the National Romantic era in Swedish art history.

– Patrik Steorn is the director of the Gothenburg Museum of Art and Reader in Art History. He was previously the director of the Thiel Gallery in Stockholm and has also worked as a researcher and lecturer at Stockholm University. His PhD thesis was titled Naked men: Masculinity and Creativity in Swedish Image Culture 1900-1915 (2006). 

For this year’s contributions to the Advent Calendar, see here.