2019 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.

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.

Gilbert & George – The Great Exhibition
Gilbert & George are two men who together are one artist. For more than five decades they have been creating art that challenges the conventions of art and society with a blatant disregard for any notions of “good taste”. The Great Exhibition treats you to a unique artistic vision, with over fifty pictures selected by Gilbert & George. As the most iconic double of the art world, dressed in near-matching and impeccably well-pressed suits, Gilbert & George have resided in the same London East End neighbourhood since the 1960s. Fearless and straight to the point, their art has the power to unsettle the viewer.

From floor to ceiling the exhibition space is filled with pictures that are at once thrilling and frightening, grotesque and austere, surreal and symbolic. The pictures almost always portray the artists themselves, often gazing directly at the viewer. Sex, money, race, and religion are among subjects of their art, which succeeds in combining happiness and sadness. Punk rockers and hipsters, Morris dance and bombs, autumn leaves and classifieds of all kinds – Gilbert & George probe the world around us with piercing eyes. “The Great Exhibition” is as democratic, generous and extravagant as its creators. Gilbert & George proclaim “art for all”.

Ever since they met at Saint Martin’s School of Art, Gilbert (born in the Dolomites, Italy, in 1943) and George (born in Devon, UK, in 1942) have walked their own path. Being both subjects and objects of their art, they are indisputably an indivisible artistic entity and have dedicated their life to art. By committing themselves to a discipline as rigorous as it is creative, keeping their life at their home and East End studio to simple classless routines, they have made room for total creative madness. In the film Gilbert & George tell us about their art and take us on one of their legendary walks through a neighbourhood that has provided material for their art for more than 50 years.

Andy Warhol 1968
“Warhol 1968” is an exhibition about his first solo exhibition at a museum in Europe was at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1968. It also attempts to explore the complexity of Warhol’s oeuvre from the perspective of the pivotal year of 1968. Until 1968, Andy Warhol’s art was a blend of fascination and revulsion for the mass media and consumerism. With his background in advertising, Warhol understood the commercial mechanisms of our society, something he monotonously and with seeming indifference came to mirror in his art.

“Warhol 1968” revisits the exhibition in 1968, featuring the now famous cow wallpaper, wall photos from the exhibition, quotes and reviews, juxtaposing them with works from the Museum collection, including Marilyn Monroe in Black and White (1962), Brillo Boxes (1964), Chelsea Girls (1966), Ten-Foot Flowers (1967), Electric Chair (1967), Mao (1973), and Cows (1982–1987).

1968 was turbulent politically and culturally, in Sweden and globally. It was also a dramatic year for Warhol on a private level, and he was the victim of a murder attempt a few months after the Stockholm exhibition closed. His practice would take a partly new direction from thereon. Warhol became more commercially calculating in his art, and turned his signature into a trademark that could be used in a variety of media. Due to the left-oriented political climate in 1968, the Andy Warhol exhibition was expected to be criticised as American propaganda. However, the opinions of Sweden’s art critics differed widely.

“Warhol 1968” features different versions of his Brillo Boxes, as a distinct connection between the time before and after 1968. They also describe the development of Warhol’s artistic practice and might lead to discussions about what can be regarded as original and copy in art.

Sharon Hayes – Echo
From street protest to art spaces – Sharon Hayes highlights activism on the art scene, and is currently a seminal voice in American contemporary political art. This exhibition is her first in Stockholm and features both early and completely new works. Follow Sharon Hayes on a walk through the exhibition “Echo”. She talks about the works “Join us”, “In My Little Corner of the World, Anyone Would Love You”, “Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)”, and “Ricerche”, among others.

“Echo” explores the idea of the exhibition as an echo chamber, where Hayes lets voices and materials reverberate between different historic events. It also references a feminist interpretation of the classical myth of Echo, the nymph who is cursed for her conversational skills. She is condemned to only repeat fragments said by others, sounds devoid of meaning.

Sharon Hayes was born in 1970 in Baltimore and is now based in Philadelphia. With a background in journalism and anthropology, she came to New York’s experimental theatre scene in the early 1990s. This was a time and a place marked by the polarised political climate of the Reagan era, with its denial of the AIDS crisis. With her “Lesbian Love Tour” in 1996, which visited forty-five “lesbian living rooms” in nearly as many cities, Sharon Hayes brought activism to the art scene. Hayes is currently one of the most influential politically and socially committed artists in the USA.

Sharon Hayes mines the power of the spoken word in works ranging from entirely personal address to agitation on urgent social issues. By using individual voices she intentionally prevents us from relating to preconceived perspectives, be they universal or specific. In her performances, photographs and sound and video pieces, she relocates private speech to the public sphere. A central aspect of her work is the relationship between language, history, and politics.

A completely new work will be presented as part of Hayes’s evolving “Ricerche” project – made in dialogue with “Comizi d’amore” (1965), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s interview film on sex and relations. Hayes’s interviews with different groups map out a contemporary situation, but also build a living archive of voices on the challenges of owning one’s identity – conversations with a radical, transformative potential.

Arthur Jafa – A series of utterly improbable, yet extraordinary renditions
Urgent, political, and burningly topical – after two decades in film, Arthur Jafa steps onto the art scene. With highly charged video works he unpacks America’s history and explores the conditions for a contemporary African-American visual culture. The exhibition is about black aesthetics and the impact of black culture on Western culture throughout the 20th and 21st century. For this exhibition, Jafa has invited along the photographer Ming Smith and the visual artist Frida Orupabo, and included material from Missylanyus’s Youtube channel, to build an experience in sound and image that is both politically reflective and visionary.

Arthur Jafa was born in 1960 in Tupelo, Mississippi, and lives in Los Angeles. After his architecture studies, Jafa embarked on a career as a cinematographer. He has worked with Spike Lee on the film “Crooklyn”, with Stanley Kubrick on “Eyes Wide Shut”, and Julie Dash on “Daughters of the Dust”, the first film directed by an African-American woman that got distribution over the entire USA. Jafa has also made music videos for Solange, Kanye West and Jay-Z. At the 2019 Venice Biennale, Arthur Jafa was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist in the central exhibition.

Jafa’s work is created in the present with USA’s history as a backdrop. Through film, photography, and found material, he investigates events in African-American history. Based on his own in-depth knowledge and references to other artists, writers, and scholars, such as John Akomfrah, Toni Morrison, and Fred Moten, Jafa makes new and challenging interpretations of today’s society. Arthur Jafa’s narratives go far back in American history, to the scars that the transatlantic slave trade left on its culture and people. “How do you make a Black cinema with the power, beauty and alienation of Black music?” is a mantra that, according to Jafa, has been part of the creative process the whole time.

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.

The museum opened in 1958, when was moved from the Nationalmuseum into a former navy drill hall on Skeppsholmen in Stockholm. The current building was completed in 1998, adjoining the old museum premises, and is designed by the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Moderna Museet also opened in Malmö in 2009.

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.

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.

The curator position with responsibility for the collection of international art from 1989 onwards is part of the group Art, which is a division of the department of Exhibitions & Collection at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. There are six curators with collection responsibility in the group.

Since 2009, the museum also has a branch in 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.

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.