Twilight Season

Gems and bonanzas light up the Swedish art autumn.

Nan Goldin, Fashion Show at Second Tip, Toon, C, So and Yogo, Bangkok, 1992. Nan Goldin exhibits at Moderna Museet in October.

In Sweden, it is currently impossible to escape a national election campaign that has been characterised as an “avalanche of dung,” due to conservatives, liberals, and socialists alike competing for voters’ attention through crypto-fascist outbursts. Yet, the coming election doesn’t seem to have influenced the art season to any particular degree. One exception is the Public Art Agency Sweden, which, in collaboration with the National Artists’ Organization (KRO), has invited the parliamentary parties to an art policy debate. The debate will be held at the Public Art Agency’s new premises on Skeppsholmen, near Moderna Museet, on 1 September. Yet, the press release emphasises that the public will not be able to participate or ask questions either on-site or in social media. What a bummer.

To be honest, the autumn season feels a bit lacklustre. After a spring brimming with energy after two years of pandemic silence, the autumn has an air of sackcloth and ashes. Where the beginning of the year saw a number of spectacular solo shows the coming months are all about sombre political group exhibitions. Moderna Museet stands out with a promising major survey of the American photographer Nan Goldin, which said to be the first presentation to focus exclusively on the artist’s slide shows and video installations. Also, Moderna Museet will show the Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, known for his excessive and hybridised aesthetics.

Otherwise, the prominent institutions seem imbued by a somewhat Lutheran spirit. At Moderna’s branch in Malmö, we can enjoy the international group exhibition Twilight Land, about “the massive trials and tribulations” facing humanity in today’s “historical paradigm shift.” It is billed as the museum’s major event this season, and will feature a host of newly produced works by artists such as Jonas Staal, Alberta Whittle, and Sandra Mujinga. Lund Konsthall also wants in on the fun, and the group show Behold, We Are Here, curated by the artist Hanni Kamaly, promises “forceful discourses from contemporary artists who confront a centuries-long legacy of oppression.” Meanwhile, Accelerator in Stockholm will show Mother Courage and Her Children, which is about courage, poetry, and resistance in a time of “fear and rearmament.”

North of Stockholm, the Uppsala Art Museum joins in the decolonial choir with the group exhibition All That Is Solid Melts Into Water, juxtaposing contemporary art and archeological artefacts to highlight the history of hydropower and its effects on Indigenous populations. The Gothenburg art scene, meanwhile, has always been a bit less respectable, which might be what shines through in Gothenburg Konsthall’s Burnout. This show takes the car as a starting point for, well, basically anything having to do with cars as a cultural phenomenon; it features some ten artists working with video, installation, sculpture, and textile art. Put the pedal to the metal!

Cia Kanthi, Blind Spot, I Didn’t Know Their Stories, But We Had the Same Eyes, ink print, 98 x 98 cm, 2019. Cia Kanthi will participate in Malmö Konsthall’s survey of the art scene in Malmö in October.

In a time when art is constantly burdened by political and commercial interests, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts has become an anachronistic watering hole. In the stately Neo-renaissance building in central Stockholm, both famous and lesser-known Swedish artists from different generations come together, and despite the imposing historical setting, I have often felt that I’ve come closer to the artists’ intentions there than in many kunsthalles and galleries. This autumn, the roster includes artists like Karin Frostensson, Debora Elgeholm, and Gideonsson/Londré, but there are also a couple of group exhibitions that stand out: one about the breakthrough of postmodernism based on loans directly from the artists, a move that may provide a novel angle; as well as a show of contemporary textile art, which makes me wonder why we don’t see more media-based exhibitions. A thoroughly researched overview of Swedish textile art or contemporary painting? Such shows are virtually unheard of these days.

Another type of exhibition that has fallen into disrepute is the geographical survey. Yet, this autumn Malmö Konsthall is putting on a big bonanza with some fifty artists based in Malmö. The show is curated by the director Mats Stjernstedt (who was active in Malmö’s art scene in the early 1990s and might contribute a certain historical perspective) together with Elena Tzotzi from the Malmö institution Signal and the young duo Emily Fahlén and Asrin Haidari. The aim is to bring together the energy of the city’s legendary art scene. A high bar, indeed.

Gideonsson/Londré, Tilbøyeligheter, 2019. Babel Visningsrom for Kunst, Trondheim. Photo: F. Susann Jamtøy. Gideonsson/Londré will exhibit at The Royal Art Academy in Stockholm in November.

The art-historical museums are going all-in on monographic presentations of canonised artists such as the prominent modernist Isaac Grünewald at Waldemarsudde, the post-war photographer Christer Strömholm at the National Museum, and the turn-of-the-century Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt at the Gothenburg Museum of Art. The Thiel gallery takes a stand for gender equality by exhibiting Tora Vega Holmström, though she was featured in a large exhibition at Moderna Museet Malmö as recently as 2014. A somewhat uninspiring autumn for the history buffs among us.

Luckily, Jonas (J) Magnusson and Cecilia Grönberg (perhaps best known as editors of the magazine OEI) will present their many years of historical research into the 1960–70s socialist photography collective Bildaktivisterna (The Image Activists). It will be both an exhibition at the Center for Photography in Stockholm and a 1020-page book. OEI will also publish an issue on the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler, hitherto not much translated into Swedish. In terms of reading, I’m also looking forward to the magazine Tydningen’s thematic issue on the Scottish artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, another writer who hasn’t been properly introduced in Sweden before.

What else? Bonniers Konsthall will have a show about global food supply chains. Accelerator is preparing the umpteenth exhibition with the acclaimed Norwegian performance artist Tori Wrånes. The Luleå Biennale has set its focus on design, handicrafts, and duodji [Sámi handicrafts]. On the commercial scene, it is often business as usual, but there is always something that stands out. Saskia Neuman, former director of Market Art Fair, has started her own gallery in Stockholm. The inaugural exhibition featuring Swedish/American artist Tobias Bradford opens in September. In October, Belenius will show abstract and figurative works by the 91-year-old Italian artist Isabella Ducrot. I think it might be a real gem.

Isabella Ducrot, Bella Terra XLII, pigments and China ink on Chinese paper, 29,5 x 45 cm, 2020. Bella Terra is on of two series of works that will be presented at Belenius in October. Photo: Mareike Tocha. Cortesy of Galerie Gisela Capitain/Isabella Ducrot.