Nordic News Weekly – January 18th

After a new government was formed in Sweden today, state museums will remain free of charge. Also in the news: An art plan for Oslo and Elmgreen & Dragset in The Simpsons.

Elmgreen & Dragset’s Prada Marfa as it appears in Mad About the Toy, the eleventh episode of the 30th season of The Simpsons.

The appearance of the art installation Prada Marfa by the Norwegian-Danish art duo Elmgreen & Dragset in the latest episode of The Simpsons has been noticed by the art press. “Prada Marfa can now mark its official passage from cult art to pop culture,” writes Sarah Rose Sharp in her account of the story on Hyperallergic. Michael Elmgreen made a similar point on his public Facebook profile: “In 2005 we had a tiny opening for less than 50 people outside Marfa on Higway 90. In 2019 Prada Marfa made into The Simpsons, ha ha.” In the episode, which first aired on January 6th, the cartoon family accidentally runs into the deserted, locked up Prada shop on a road trip through Texas. The family members respond to the site-specific art project in accordance with their personalities: Marge mistakes it for a real luxury boutique, Lisa recognizes it to be a work of art, while Homer Simpson goes to relieve himself behind it, stating that “It’s on the side of the road, so by definition it is a bathroom.”

Sweden’s newly renovated National Museum will remain free of charge. Photo: Bruno Ehrs.

New Swedish government promises to keep state museums free of charge

After four months of negotiations following the elections in September, a new government was finally formed in Sweden today, with Stefan Löfven (S) re-elected as prime minister. The key reason for the seemingly unlikely cross-party agreement between the Social Democrats, the Green party, the Centre party, and the Liberals – with conditional support from the Left party – is publicly stated to be to bar the influence of the far-right Sweden Democrats on Swedish politics. The installment of the new government will also have consequences for Swedish cultural politics. In the right-wing budget that received a winning vote in the Swedish parliament in December, the policy of free entry to state museums was set to be abolished at the beginning of 2019. According to the minister of culture and democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke from the Green party, the new government will make sure that visiting the museums will still be free of charge. With a new government in place, the process of appointing a new director of Moderna Museet – which is a governmental responsibility – may also proceed.

Torunn Elisabeth Larsen and Geir Haraldseth at the opening of the 40th anniversary exhibition at Rogaland Kunstsenter. Photo: Emile Nesse.

Rogaland Kunstsenter turns 40 with a vision

“To be able to envision a future for the regional art centers, I find it important to take into account their history as centers for artists,” said Geir Haraldseth, when interviewed by Kunstkritikk (in Norwegian) during the 40thanniversary celebration of Rogaland Kunstsenter in Stavanger, of which he has been director for the last six years. Regional artists centers were founded all over Norway as a consequence of artists organizing in the 1970s, working for artists’ rights and establishing artist-run institutions. However, since the 1990s these centers have become increasingly curator-driven, a trend that makes Haraldseth concerned that they’ve become too similar to kunsthalles. Before leaving Stavanger to join the team of curators at the National Museum in Oslo, he took part in organizing an anniversary exhibition, on view until January 31st, that presents the history of the art center since its founding in 1978. As part of the celebrations, the art center also presented its vision for a brand new House of Art, to be established in 2025. The head of the board, Tove Kommedal, says that this vision will be important when appointing a new director.

Francesca Astesani, one of the new art consultants, worked as an exhibition coordinator at Simon Denny’s New Zealand Pavilion at the Venize Biennale in 2015, which partly took place at the airport.

A pool of art consultants

The Danish Arts Foundation has appointed ten new art consultants in order to kick-start a new program for art in public space. Until recently, consultants were appointed on a project-by-project basis. By establishing a pool of art consultants who are engaged for a period of four years, the Arts Foundation hopes to ensure a certain level of professionalism and consistency, and to enable a transfer of knowledge and experience between the projects. It also hopes that this will make the appointment processes more transparent. Several of the new consultants are experienced curators involved in the specialized curatorial collectives and micro-agencies that have emerged in Denmark in recent years. However, only two of the new art consultants are artists, a fact that has already been criticized by Danish Visual Artists, the largest association for visual artists in Denmark. Søren Taaning, head of the The Danish Arts Foundations Committee for Visual Arts, tells Kunstkritikk that they wanted to ensure that the new consultants have the right competencies, considering that working as a consultant not only has a curatorial dimension, but also requires project management skills. Read the story in Danish here.

The new art plan for Oslo was presented by vice mayor for culture, Rina Mariann Hansen, at the Town Hall on January 11th (right). On the left, moderator Gerd Elise Mørland from the Munch Museum. Photo: Andreas Breivik.

Oslo Municipality launches new art plan

Earlier this month, the vice mayor for culture, Rina Mariann Hansen of the Labour party presented a new art plan for Oslo. The proposed plan contains three main goals, the first being to ensure that art is made accessible to all citizens regardless of their age or social background. Among the concrete suggestions to achieve this is to establish a strategy for presenting art to children in kindergarten, starting in 2019, and to create a so-called «e-museum» (online museum) based on the city’s art collection. The two other main goals are to ensure better conditions for producing and exhibiting art in the city, and to develop Oslo as an international art city. Art criticism is hardly mentioned in the new art plan. Read the article in Norwegian here.