2018 Exhibition review of Stockholm Museum of Modern Art, Sweden

Museum of Modern Art (Moderna Museet) is a state museum for modern and contemporary art located on Skeppsholmen island, a setting of natural beauty. Opened in 1958, the building was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. In 2009, the museum opened a new branch in Malmö in the south of Sweden, Moderna Museet Malmö.

The museum is a state administrative authority under the Ministry of Culture, and has, according to its instructions, the task of collecting, preserving, displaying and communicating 20th and 21st century art in all its forms. Moderna Museet shall promote international contacts through collaboration with institutions outside Sweden in the form of touring exhibitions, and shall also be responsible for Swedish participation in international art biennials. The Modern Museum is also a central museum, with national responsibility in its area.

On 14 February, 2004, the museum building was reopened with festivities. In addition to repairs, the opportunity had been taken to improve some of the spaces, partly to make it easier for visitors to move through the museum, and partly to utilise the upper entrance space more adequately. At the same time, the museum’s graphic profile was updated. Another major new feature at the reopening was the introduction of museum hosts – people who have a variety of skills, from life-saving to being able to tell visitors about the works of art in both the permanent and temporary exhibitions. The reason for introducing new hosts was to cater for the large increase in visitor numbers since the admission fee was abolished.

In 1901 architect John Smedberg established a beautiful electricity plant building on Gasverksgatan 22. The mission to transform the building into a more appropriate museum went to the award-winning architect firm Tham & Videgård Hansson Arkitekter. They chose to establish a new annex – a contemporary addition to the historic building. And give the interior an entirely new spatial order.

Moderna Museet is a stimulating platform for people and art, offers audiences elevant, engaging, and direct ways of encountering art on equal terms. Moderna Museet inspire, and create space for new ideas by being a stimulating platform that makes world-class art accessible to a broad audience.

The Moderna Museet arranges several large exhibitions in both Stockholm and Malmö each year, a number of medium-sized and smaller exhibitions. In 2012, the museum in Stockholm had around 500,000 visitors and the museum in Malmö over 100,000 visitors.

Manipulate the world – Connecting Öyvind Fahlström
In an exhibition filling two floors in the Museum, 28 Swedish and international artists explore and challenge Öyvind Fahlström’s ideas on manipulation and theatricality. Four historic works by Fahlström define the playing field for the exhibition, which takes place in three zones: the main exhibition hall on Floor 4, the spaces connecting both floors, and the exhibition halls on the lower ground floor. In a text from 1964, Öyvind Fahlström urges to manipulate the world. In this retrospective exhibition discussed What does this mean for artists today, in our era of alternative facts, relative truths and fragmented narratives.

Fahlström (born in 1928 in São Paulo, d. 1976 in Stockholm) was one of the most innovative and versatile artists of the 20th century. When he developed a series of paintings with variable parts in the 1960s, his intention was not merely to make the content of the painting moveable, but also to express an approach to society and politics. Fahlström was part of a zeitgeist that sought to do away with static and authoritarian narratives. He wanted to demonstrate that the world can be “manipulated” by anyone and shaped by participation and play. This exhibition asks what manipulative potential art has today.

World Trade Monopoly and Dr Schweitzer’s Last Mission (Öyvind Fahlström, 1970 and 1964-66 respectively) are shown on Floor 4. The latter is a large installation comprising fragments of information and images combined into a scenographic tableau. The work is in the form of pieces of a game distributed on a surface where fact, fiction and irrationality are mixed in a scenario with an open end. This part of the exhibition puts the theatrical in motion in a similar way, and asks how speculative enactments can manipulate the world. Dr Schweitzer’s Last Mission was named after the German-French theologian Albert Schweitzer, whose missionary medical work in Africa places the installation in a post-colonial discourse. Several works on this floor relate to thoughts on power relationships and historiography.

In the windowless on the lower ground floor, a staged depot of gold ingots (Öyvind Fahlström, World Bank, 1971) forms the centrepiece in a narrative about the distribution of money and power in the world. This narrative is pursued further in contemporary works that discuss the conditions of production, labour and extraction of natural resources. Through Fahlström’s installation, this part of the exhibition establishes itself as a hidden zone, with stories and statements about that which is underlying, concealed, forgotten or protected from public view.

Art et Liberté – Rrupture, war and surrealism in egypt (1938–1948)
The exhibition gives a comprehensive presentation of Art et Liberté (jama’at al-fann wal hurriyyah). Art et Liberté, a surrealist collective of artists and writers working in Cairo. The group provided a restless generation of young artists, intellectuals and political activists with a heterogeneous platform for cultural and political reform. Founded on December 22, 1938, upon the publication of their manifesto “Long Live Degenerate Art”, the group provided a restless generation of artists, intellectuals and political activists with a heterogeneous platform for cultural and political reform. At the dawn of the Second World War and during Egypt’s colonial rule by the British Empire, Art et Liberté was globally engaged in resistance against fascism, nationalism and colonialism.

Art et Liberté played an active role within an international network of surrealist writers and artists. With their own definition of surrealism, they achieved a contemporary literary and pictorial language that was as globally engaged as it was rooted in local artistic and political concerns. The exhibition broadens our understanding of modernism at large by shedding new light on this largely unknown chapter of the surrealist movement. It features more than 200 artworks and archival documents.

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg – A journey through mud and confusion with small glimpses of air
Step into the dreamlike, animated worlds of Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, with sculpture, music and moving images. The exhibition describes an inner voyage, an attempt to decipher existence in a flow of impulses and impressions. Their playfully told fables convey humour and darkness and disable all moral laws of gravity. Take part of the internationally renowned duo’s stop motion films and spatial installations, and their brand new VR work. There is an element of seduction in the encounter with the works of Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg. They make us lower our guard, but then the mood intensifies, and we are torn from comfortable contemplation. These works capture extreme states – our deepest darkness and greatest euphoria.

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, both born in Sweden in 1978, live and work in Berlin and Stockholm. Over the past decade, they have been prominent on the international art scene, and their works have been shown at the Venice Biennale, The New Museum in New York, and the 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai. Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg create animated worlds with objects, sound and moving images – dreamlike realities where we can lose our way. Intense chamber pieces enact fragmentary memories repressed between innocence and shame. Feverish daydreams about role play and desire, with comedy and darkness, set to hypnotic music. The films topple accepted truths about man’s supremacy in nature and our habitual perceptions of memory, time and space. Embedded in these works is a burlesque social critique that, sometimes literally, undresses the men of power, given hierarchies and social norms.

Nathalie Djurberg sees herself primarily as a painter but often works with sculpture and spatial installations. For her video works she uses stop motion animation, where a series of stills combine to give the illusion of movement – a laborious process that requires total, protracted concentration. She works in close dialogue with Hans Berg, whose music adds further layers of meanings and moods. Their collaboration is intuitive, with no storyboards or pre-written scripts. The resulting works are profoundly original, with many links to other performing arts, film and painting, and a playful approach to both desire and revulsion in a grotesque tradition that was also sourced by the surrealists. There are parallels to Hieronymus Bosch’s fantasy scenes, to the controversial filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, or the powerful performances of Carolee Schneeman. But also to dark fairy tales, clubbing and popular culture.

The presentation includes spatial installations with music and moving images, including “The Parade”, “The Potato” and “The Experiment”, along with some 20 independent video works. Several entirely new pieces also be shown – videos and sculptures, and the artists’ first virtual reality (VR) experience. The exhibition spills into a couple of rooms containing iconic works and rarely-shown pieces from the Moderna Museet collection of surrealism and Dada, selected by the curator Jo Widoff. Works created in another era, which nevertheless have similarities in approach, style and strategy.

The Moderna Exhibition 2018 – With the future behind us
The Moderna Exhibition is a large-scale project that the museum presents once every four years. The Moderna Exhibition is a recurring exhibition format featuring between thirty and fifty artists. Once every four years, you are invited to experience a comprehensive presentation of important aspects of the contemporary Swedish art scene. The first edition of The Moderna Exhibition took place in 2006 and this fourth edition feature both a major exhibition and a rich programme of performances, film screenings, and artist talks.

Curated by Joa Ljungberg and Santiago Mostyn, the 2018 edition of The Moderna Exhibition presents the work of nearly forty artists connected to the Swedish art scene, offering both sober and intimate reflections on Swedish society today, on a natural world that is no longer what it once was, and a future that appears to have already begun. Several artists in the 2018 edition look back at Swedish history and explore the events that have shaped and reshaped society. Other artists highlight alternative experiences of living in Sweden today. And in the midst of these local standpoints, the exhibition incorporates geographically distant perspectives that, in different ways, impact our lives here and now.

The human body is tangibly present throughout the exhibition – surveilled and registered, caught between legal and geographic boundaries, and shaped by ideologies, technologies, power structures and norms. Also palpable are the remnants of nature, transformed beyond recognition to make way for vast industrial tracts of land where time passes ever more rapidly. In a more hopeful direction, we encounter the search for an existence and a sexuality unencumbered by patriarchy, consumerism, and religious heritage, with new approaches to understanding oneself as a more integral part of a cosmological whole. The hierarchy of man, animal and plant is reinterpreted and renegotiated in novel ways, opening up the potential for imaginative new forms of communal understanding.

To select the artists for the exhibition, the curators of the 2018 edition made an extensive and geographically widespread series of studio visits with artists in and around Sweden. They also organised four seminar days in Malmö, Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Umeå respectively, bringing together some forty curators, scholars, and museum directors to present their insights and reflections around important contemporary tendencies. These seminars were made possible in close collaboration with Malmö Konstmuseum, Göteborgs Konsthall, Bildmuseet in Umeå and the Swedish Arts Grants Committee/Iaspis in Stockholm.

Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm
The Moderna Museet was inaugurated in the exercise house on Skeppsholmen, May 9, 1958. The Superintendent of the National Museum, Otte Sköld, reminded in his inaugural speech that as early as 1908 the problem of current local art in the National Museum had been taken seriously and the idea of a new building for these collections. Shortly before his death, Otte Sköld saw for himself the museum realized and his commitment to creating the new museum had been decisive. Together with, among others, the Friends of the Modern Museum, which was founded in 1953, he gave the National Museum’s collection of 20th century art its own home. The museum’s driving superintendents Pontus Hultén and Olle Granathcame with their contacts and initiatives to pursue these intentions in the following decades.

Moderna Museet is a state museum with a national mandate for modern and contemporary art. The collection is at the forefront of its kind in Europe. The museum is a meeting place for people and art with a strong foundation in society and the world at large. With its world-class programme of exhibitions, collection-based projects and educational activities, Moderna Museet has substantial local presence and international reach. The exchange with other art institutions around the world is extensive.

Moderna Museet has a long-standing history of hosting international artists for groundbreaking exhibitions, performances, and other presentations, as well as through its world-renowned collection. Experience one of Europe’s foremost collections of art from the twentieth century to today, featuring works by artists including Picasso, Dali, Derkert, and Matisse.

With an art collection comprising more than 130 000 works, Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art) is Sweden’s leading museum for modern and contemporary art. Moderna Museet has one of Europe’s finest collections of modern and contemporary art. The collections contain contemporary painting, sculpture, photography and art film from 1900 onwards, and in the case of photographs also from around 1840.

It includes key works by Pablo Picasso, Ljubov Popova, Salvador Dalí, Meret Oppenheim, Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd and Irving Penn, along with works by contemporary practising artists. Here you can read about the various parts of the collection and its history.

By combining international masterpieces by artists such as Warhol, Picasso and Dali with temporary exhibitions by prominent artists of the 20th and 21st century, Moderna Museet manages to attract many returning visitors for an ever-changing art experience. The original collection was dominated by Swedish and Nordic art, American art from the 1950’s and 60s, and French-oriented modernism, however, the collection has been extended to include more female artists and to create a more versatile collection with works from all over the world.

The Collection
Since the start in 1958, the Museum has been known for its close relationship to artists – Marcel Duchamp, for instance, signed several of his works in Stockholm towards the end of his life, and Andy Warhol had his first solo museum exhibition in Europe at Moderna Museet in 1968.

The Moderna Museet collection now comprises some 6,000 paintings, sculptures and installations, 25,000 watercolours, drawings and prints, 400 art videos and films, and 100,000 photographs. The Collection covers paintings, sculptures, installations, films, videos, drawings and prints by Swedish and international artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, and photography from the 1840s until today.

Thanks to focused collecting initiatives, the Museum has successfully increased the breadth and depth of its collection. Back in 1963, The Museum of Our Wishes was launched, transforming the Museum instantly into a leading European art institution; the government contributed SEK 5 million, for the acquisition of iconic works by Giacomo Balla, Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters, Giorgio de Chirico and many others. A few decades ago, the exercise was repeated, but this time spotlighting women artists only – works by Louise Bourgeois, Dorothea Tanning, Judy Chicago, Susan Hiller and others were added to the collection.

Only a fraction of the collection can be on display. But it allows us to explore and reformulate the standard art historical narrative through new insights and constant changes in the exhibition. This includes Moderna Museet Malmö, with its innovative angle on selecting and showing works from the collection since opening in 2009.

A large art collection is the best possible starting point for visual and intellectual experiments. Moderna Museet, as an open and living museum, is constantly rewriting the standard history of modernism by frequently rehanging its collection in radical new ways. Since 2009, the Museum has two locations, Stockholm and Malmö, where innovative selections of works from the collection have been featured regularly since the opening. A few of the iconic works, such as Henri Mattisse’s Moroccan Landscape (Acanthus), Robert Rauchenberg’s Monogram, and Eva Hesse’s sculpture Untitled, are nearly always available for check.