Spring Sonata – Sweden

Elastic Gallery moves from Malmö to Stockholm, and the history of Swedish photography is in focus at exhibitions in both Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Malmö.

Thilo Frank, The Phoenix Is Closer than It Appears, installationsbild, 2010. © Studio Thilo Frank.
Thilo Frank, The Phoenix Is Closer than It Appears, installation view, 2010. © Studio Thilo Frank.

What exhibitions can we look forward to in Sweden this spring? The Stockholm art season began in mid-January with, among other things, Christodoulos Panayiotous at Galerie Nordenhake and Moderna Museet, Kiripi Katembo Siku at Galleri Flach and Martin Erik Andersen at Galleri Riis. In Gothenburg, the spring was kicked off with Lena Bergendahl at Galleri Box and Johan Stenström at Galleri Mors Mössa, to name just two. And in Malmö, Johan Berggren Gallery opened with paintings by Ståle Vold.

In mid-February, Elastic Gallery leaves Malmö for its new premises by Vanadisplan in Stockholm, near the gallery cluster at Hudiksvallsgatan. This is sad news for Malmö’s art scene, not least as Galleri Magnus Åklundh closed down the public part of its operation in the fall. “The [art] market in Malmö is smaller today and more sluggish than it was a few years ago,” claims gallerist Ola Gustafsson in Sydsvenska Dagbladet 20/12/13, and further notes that “Stockholm has more institutions, and a larger, interested professional audience.” At the same time several of the galleries that started in Stockholm over the last decade are languishing or leading a highly uncertain existence. Some have closed down. There are of course a few exceptions in the form of younger, vital spaces, but the overall scene is dominated by galleries with roots in the eighties and nineties. Elastic Gallery, on the other hand, has grown out of the art scene of the noughties, and in this sense is a welcome addition to the capital’s established gallery scene.

Marion von Osten, The Desert of Modernity, 2009. Creative Commons.
Marion von Osten, The Desert of Modernity, 2009. Creative Commons.

January also saw the opening of the spring edition of Tensta Museum, Tensta Konsthall’s ambitious “seven month long exhibition about Tensta as a residential neighbourhood, and its cultural heritage and history.” New participants include, among others, Marwa Arsanios, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Marion von Osten, Helena Mattsson and Meike Schalk. More modest in scope was the exhibition that opened the same day at OEI Colour Project, where two recovered paintings by Berndt Petterson were able to illuminate the artist’s typewritten and collage-based work from the 1960s. One of Petterson’s central works, I Påsen (“In the Bag”, 1965), was released by the publisher Bo Cavefors, who as the main protagonist in Lena Mattsson’s video triptych I betraktarens öga (“In the Eye of the Beholder”) was present to inaugurate the art season in Malmö. Cavefors’ uncompromising publishing of radical literature from both the left and the right is legendary. Perhaps less well known is his work as a pioneer within the artist’s book genre. He, alongside Berndt Petterson, released books by, among others, Leif Elggren, Peter Ortman & Ola Billgren, Mats B. and Sture Johannesson. Mattsson’s work is shown at Moderna Museet in Malmö until the middle of March.

This weekend Umeå was inaugurated as 2014’s European Capital of Culture, and Bildmuseet opened with a major presentation of the Surrealist Leonor Fini, room installations by Thilo Frank and Andreas Johansson, and an exhibition with Katarina Pirak Sikku. The latter is part of the series Eight Sami Artists, which will be shown at Bildmuseet during the year, and includes Marja Helander, Per Enoksson and Anders Sunna. Later in the spring a video installation by the Pakistani artist Shahzia Sikander will be shown, and in the summer Bildmuseet’s rooms will be filled with the group exhibition Right is Wrong, which “shows Chinese art spanning three decades and presents the re-emergence of contemporary art in China.” During the first few months of the year an Åsa Cederqvist exhibition will be shown at the artist-run space Verkligheten.

Lena Mattsson, Stillbild ur I betraktarens öga, 2013. © Lena Mattsson.
Lena Mattsson, I betraktarens öga, video still, 2013. © Lena Mattsson.

In the month of February, there will be a veritable national photo cavalcade, with Between Realities: Photography in Sweden 1970–2000, which will open at Gothenburg Museum of Art and Hasselblad Center this week and extends “from politically charged documentary photography to the prominent role of the photographic image in contemporary art”, and The Visible: Contemporary Swedish Photography at Artipelag outside Stockholm, which shows work from the last five years with its starting point in “the changes taking place in photography during the 1990s.” Both exhibitions are part of Niclas Östlind’s dissertation at Akademin Valand, and both a catalogue and a book will be published in the Swedish Association of Art’s annual book series, which in this incarnation will “offer an opportunity to deepen knowledge and understanding of thirty years of Swedish photo history.”

Christodoulos Panayiotou, Untitled, 2014. 3 par handgjorda skor (läder), skolådor. Galerie Nordenhake.
Christodoulos Panayiotou, Untitled, 2014. 3 par handgjorda skor (läder), skolådor. Galerie Nordenhake.

If the exhibitions in Stockholm and Gothenburg together want to write the history of postmodern photography, and let its light fall over the photographic practices of the future – i.e. the present – Moderna Museet Malmö and curator Anna Tellren are delving into the “private, intimate, intrusive and… subjective tendencies in Swedish photography.” A Way of Life: Swedish Photography from Christer Strömholm until Today opened on the first day of February, and “highlights three contemporary photographers, Martin Bogren, Anna Clarén and JH Engström”, who follow the route mapped out by the master.

Otherwise notable in February is the alternative art fair Supermarket, which this year will be held at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. Also starting this month is OEI Colour Project’s Persistent projects, open-ended (hi)stories – practices of four unrelated artists, with four European artists of the generation who emerged during the late sixties and early seventies: Rémy Zaugg, Claus Böhmler, Manfred Mohr and Esther Ferrer. The project is co-curated by Hinrich Sachs, and, with the exception of Zaugg, the participating artists have not previously been shown in Sweden. Konsthall C continues to work with radio broadcasts, and different projects on the theme of energy and the extraction of raw materials, with films by Otolith Group and Maj Wechselman, among others, and post-relational discussions about “strikes, borders, housing, feminism and much more.”

Gabriel Orozco, Dark Wave, installationsbild, 2006. © Gabriel Orozco. Courtesy of the artist and the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Foto: Markus Tretter/ Kunsthaus Bregenz.
Gabriel Orozco, Dark Wave, installation view, 2006. © Gabriel Orozco. Courtesy of the artist and the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Photo: Markus Tretter/ Kunsthaus Bregenz.

Among the spring’s major monographic exhibitions include Adrian Paci at Röda Sten Art Centre in Gothenburg, Lars Englund at Malmö Konsthall, Gabriel Orozco at Moderna Museet, and Andreas Eriksson and, later in spring, Sharon Lockhart at Bonniers Konsthall. More unexpected, or at least less obvious names, are Erland Brand, who is exhibiting at Gothenburg Konsthall in March, and Andreas Mangione, who exhibits at Signal in Malmö from mid-February. Still active Erland Brand has been producing art since the 1940’s, but remains largely unknown to the general public. It has been said of his detailed ink drawings that “the pen in his hand follows the soft movements of the clouds and the cliff’s network of cracks” (Jan Håfström, Huvuden som övergår i landskap, 2008). Mangione’s imagery has a different character, but grows, like Brand’s, out of the daily joy (and sorrow) of drawing.

Other art-related news worth noting is that Malmö Konsthall is still waiting for the appointment of a new director after Jacob Fabricius announced his resignation in December, 2012. At the moment of writing, three candidates have been made public: Diana Baldon (head of Index – Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm), Paul Domela (board member of Manifesta 10 in Saint Petersburg and previously the program director for the Liverpool Biennial), and Anders Kreuger (curator at Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgian Antwerp). The decision is expected to be made public during the spring. More recently advertised jobs are the position of director at IASPIS (after Lisa Rosdahl) and the position of vice-chancellor at the Royal Institute of Art (after Måts Wrange). The artistic director post at Röda Sten Art Centre is also waiting to be filled.

Andreas Eriksson, Västerplana Storäng I, 2013. Olja på duk, 404 x 299 cm. Creative Commons.
Andreas Eriksson, Västerplana Storäng I, 2013. Creative Commons.

In terms of exhibitions opening later in the spring, noteworthy is a look back at Carl Johan de Geer’s artistry over 50 years, which will be shown at Färgfabriken in April. In the same month an exhibition will open with the Bulgarian-Swedish performance artist Vassil Simittchiev, titled Documentations and Sketches 1979–2012. Also opening in April is Stockholm’s annual art fair Market, this time at Liljevalchs Konsthall. At the same time About: The Blank Pages. The Basic Art Series is now checked for errors and we hereby send the edited list back to you for correction by Ditte Ejlerskov and EveMarie Lindahl will be shown at Malmö Konsthall. The exhibition is an attempt to correct the uneven representation of male and female artists in Taschen’s Basic Art Series, through a list of nearly a hundred names that the artists believe are missing from the series. “To illustrate our work”, it says in a letter to the publisher that can be read on the Konsthall’s website, “we decided to introduce all the missing book covers in an installation […] both the published and the unpublished, both the men and the women”. At the Konsthall there will also be an exhibition with video works by 19 female artists from Iran, entitled Nietzsche Was A Man.

Anyone who is in Stockholm this summer can look forward to an exhibition by George Adéagbo at Moderna Museet, who otherwise digs deeper in indigenous soil with exhibitions by Nils Dardel and Tora Vega Holmström, the latter in Malmö. At Lunds Konsthall in June, an exhibition will open with Goshka Macuga (who currently can be seen at Index in Stockholm in an exhibition that lasts until mid-April). In the summer, at last, Kjartan Slettemark will be showing at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. It is the large retrospective that has been on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo since last fall, curated by Stina Högkvist, which will go on tour to the artist’s other homeland.

Kjartan Slettemark, Passport, 1974.
Kjartan Slettemark, Passport, 1974.