8 December

Asrin Haidari, curator at Moderna Museet, picks her most heartbreakingly beautiful exhibitions in 2021.

José Leonilson, Puros y duros, [Clean and Hard], 1991.

José Leonilson, Leonilson – Drawn: 1975–1993, Malmö Konsthall, Malmö

Full of longing after being separated from people and life for so long, I travelled to Malmö Konsthall’s retrospective of José Leonilson (1954–1993), which included works from the artist’s late teens up until his premature death from AIDS in 1993. I couldn’t take my eyes off a small bronze staircase protruding from one of the walls; its idiom felt so direct and human. Additionally, there were colourful paintings, geometrical sculptures, and embroideries with pearls and pebbles sewn onto fabric, made during the last years of his life. They were like loving whispers: dedications to a life lived, to friends and lovers.  

Margareta Hallek, Rynkstycke [Wrinkle Piece], 1967. Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger.

Margareta Hallek, spontaneous exhibition in the artist’s home, 2021, Stockholm

When I visited Margareta Hallek, one of Sweden’s most important textile artists, to look at her work in her home in Stockholm, she had put together a small retrospective. On the walls hung a form of textile painting in which black and silver lace contrasted with terry cloth and striped silk sewn on cheap, floral-patterned cotton fabric. Weavings with gaps, snaps, elastic bands, and bows attested to Hallek’s use of materials that were available around the house. Oh, the potential of limitations! I was so happy to be surrounded by her anarchist art, which is now, for the first time, included in Moderna Museet’s collection. 

Gabrielle Goliath, This song is for…, installation view from Konsthall C, Stockholm, 2021. Photo: Johan Österholm.

Gabrielle Goliath, This song is for…, Konsthall C, Stockholm

As soon as I stepped into Gabrielle Goliath’s exhibition at Konsthall C, I felt that this art was a matter of life and death. A heartbreakingly beautiful song took over the space and demanded my utmost attention. The two-channel video showed musicians performing songs that had been chosen by survivors of sexual violence, and visitors could take part of personal testimonies written on the wall. There were occasional disturbances in the music, like a scratched LP that plays the same piece over and over again, just as trauma becomes a gash in life. Goliath’s work managed to provide access to the pain of others in the most striking way.

– Asrin Haidari is a curator at Moderna Museet where she is currently working on an exhibition based on the museum’s new acquisitions, opening in February of 2022. In 2019 she and Emily Fahlén founded the small exhibition space Mint, located in the ABF-budling in Stockholm, and in 2018–2020 she was artistic director of the Luleå Biennial. 

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