23 December

Who was nice and who was naughty? Kunstkritikk’s Swedish editor shares his 2023 list.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, 1661–1662.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis (1661–1662) is considered to be the most significant painting in a Nordic art collection. But does it have to stay in Stockholm? Couldn’t it hang in, say, Amsterdam instead? The painting belongs to the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, who demand 400,000 SEK (36,000 EUR) to continue the loan to the Nationalmuseum, where it has sat in state for 150 years. Apparently, this amount is so exorbitant that a private citizen had to save the work from being shipped abroad. Rembrandt’s painting was the work of the year as it shows that we are in the hands of cretins. The reason it had to stay is not that it belongs to some abstract cultural heritage, but because everyone, including people who can’t afford to travel abroad to visit museums, should be able to see it. On my part, I pored over the museum’s fine collection and read Carl-Johan Malmbergs fascinating study on said work, Ögonblicket mellan före och efter (The moment between before and after, 2023).

Electronic music pioneer Ralph Lundsten in his Andromeda Studio, founded in 1959. Courtesy of the Ralph Lundsten Archive.

Elektronmusikstudion EMS – Art, Technology and Politics, Scenkonstmuseet, Stockholm

We have failed EMS and betrayed the future! During the progressive 1960s, one of the world’s first state-funded electronic music studios was created in Stockholm. Scenkonstmuseet’s retrospective was full of yellowed newspaper clippings and wondrous gadgets brimming with utopian energy. In an old television interview, EMS founder Knut Wiggen carefully explains how to make music using a “computer-machine.” You could listen to text-sound compositions and electro-acoustic pieces, to name a couple of the new aesthetic genres invented by the EMS circle. Sadly, I missed the evening dedicated to the pioneering composer Ralph Lundsten, who passed away in 2023, but I will be there for Kali Malone and Nadine Byrne’s contributions in the spring. This was the cultural achievement of the year.

Tanja Nis-Hansen, C, 2022; Frida Toranzo-Jaeger, Feminist Review of the Oedipus Complex, 2022; Astrid Kajsa Nylander, Macaoon, 2023. Installation view from Draw a Door in the Wall and Slip Through It, Belenius, Stockholm.

Draw a Door in the Wall and Slip Through It, Belenius, Stockholm. Curated by Astrid Kajsa Nylander

This was the year of the commercial galleries. While the institutions told us what art ‘should’ look like (a recipe for conformism), the galleries were better at capturing what is happening on the art scene. For instance, the recent wave of young painters hardly left a trace at the institutions, while a small gallery like Belenius showcased two international group shows with contemporary painting. Currently on view is a funny and imaginative display curated by artist Astrid Kajsa Nylander and featuring cartoonish works by Beatrice Marchi, Frieda Toranzo-Jaeger, and Tanja Nis-Hansen. A butt is given eyes so that the cheeks seem to kiss each other – the dream of intimacy on equal terms? A woman is trying to chill when an angry man pops out of her knee, making her kick herself in the head – it must be the patriarchy ‘trolling’ away. In Sweden, a figurative painting show taking itself seriously as a feminist statement would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago. I guess some things are moving forward, after all!

Frans Josef Petersson is Kunstkritikk’s editor in Stockholm.  

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