2020 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 the island of Skeppsholmen in central Stockholm, opened in 1958. In 2009, the museum opened a new branch in Malmö in the south of Sweden, Moderna Museet Malmö. 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.

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.

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.

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.

How do we understand the relationship between life and technology in a time when they seem to be completely merged? The group show “Mud Muses – A Rant About Technology” takes its title from an installation by Robert Rauschenberg and an essay by science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin. Meet 19 artists and artists groups who manipulate and play with (gender)codes, flip subjectivities, hook up with other intelligences and short circuit the promises of technology.

In the 1960s the aim was to integrate technology with everyday life: in 2019 that unification seems realised and complete. Perhaps it was by travelling through history and the imagination that we can trace the differences between life, art, and technology? In Robert Rauschenberg’s fifty-year-old artwork “Mud Muse” (1968–1971) sonic vibrations create random bubbles in a large, open, vat filled with synthetic sludge. Here our encounter with technology becomes both sticky and confusing. What a Mud Muse actually is remains uncertain, but the installation makes one thing clear: technology is a notion that creates time and space and thus influences our sense of reality.

Art and technology have long held a place at Moderna Museet
The theme of art and technology is a cornerstone for Moderna Museet. Several important exhibitions about the human and the machine were held in the museum’s founding years – such as “Movement in Art” (1961), the Tatlin exhibition (1968), “Ararat” (1976) – and the museum itself was conceived as an information centre and transmission station of sorts, an early example of how society is remade in the image of technology. “Mud Muses” revisits but also departs from this history in a journey through important transformations which the theme has undergone since the 1960s, and offers new interpretations of its historic and cultural backgrounds.

In her text “A Rant About Technology” (2004), Ursula K. Le Guin uncouples technology from common sense and progress. She writes, “Technology is the active human interface with the material world.” This simple definition expands the idea of technology and ensures that it doesn’t only belong to ‘advanced’ cultures or at our end of history. But how does ‘the material world’ act in this equation? And how does technology’s ‘active interface’ affect humans and their society?

Vision Exchange Workshop with Nalini Malani and Akbar Padamsee, Robert Rauschenberg, Anna Sjödahl, Charlotte Johannesson and the Digital Theatre, Suzanne Treister, Soda Jerk and VNS Matrix, Ian Cheng, Sidsel Meineche Hansen and Cultural Capital Cooperative, Armando Mariano Marubo, Paulino Joaquim Marubo and Antônio Brasil Marubo, The Otolith Group, Lucy Siyao Liu, Branko Petrović och Nikola Bojić, CUSS group, Jenna Sutela, Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, Anna Lundh, and Primer with Emil Rønn Andersen, Eva Löfdahl, Amitai Romm, Aquaporin and Novo nordisk.

Walid Raad – Let’s be honest, the weather helped
This Walid Raad retrospective features documents and scenarios that he either wishes existed or fears are already in existence. We also meet the artist himself in a comprehensive performance work. “Let’s be honest, the weather helped” is a complex but also amusing and very elegant totality. Undoubtedly the most unmissable exhibition this spring (Dagens Nyheter). The exhibition is retrospective, but not chronological. Works from Raad’s major projects are presented side by side in an unprecedented way, opening up for new approaches to his oeuvre and the themes he explores.

Walid Raad began his artist career in the late 1980s and has worked primarily on three major projects: The Atlas Group, Sweet Talk: Commissions, and Scratching on things I could disavow. These projects are closely linked to his experiences of growing up in Beirut during the civil war in Lebanon, moving to New York, and having an emerging career in a globally expansive art world. Raad engages how violence affects bodies, minds, culture and tradition. In his photographs, videotapes, sculptures, texts and mixed media installations, Raad proceeds from historical events to imagine seemingly ludicrous, bizarre, and wondrous situations and documents.

Walid Raad is one of the most celebrated contemporary artists. His works have been shown at documenta and the Venice Biennale, and he has had major solo exhibitions at museums all over the world. Raad’s innovative artistic practice has been widely recognised and awarded, not least for his highly unique performances, or “Walkthroughs”, as he calls them. Walid Raad was born in 1967 in Lebanon. He currently lives in Medusa, in upstate New York.

Meet the artist Walid Raad in a unique performance. The work interweaves historical, political, economic, cultural and philosophical threads into a narrative that is dizzying, imaginative, and illuminating. We recommend you to experience Walid Raad’s art at one of his walkthroughs. The performance is held on 23 occasions. “Kicking the Dead and/or Les Louvres” is a 75-minute performance, which Raad refers to as a “walkthrough”. It accompanies the exhibition, and comprises lecture-style presentations, video screenings, and walks in the exhibition spaces. Thematically, Walid Raad concentrates on the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. His inquiry leads him to engage World War I, arts education, insurance, sweat, and the history of tall buildings.

In addition to the performance, Walid Raad hold five guided tours of the exhibition. The curator of the exhibition, Fredrik Liew, also gives special guided tours regularly. All guided tours and performances are listed in the calendar.

John Baldessari
The American artist John Baldessari created conceptual art that asks questions about what art is, how it is made and what it looks like. Combining imagery from pop culture with linguistic explorations, his work challenged artistic norms and limits throughout his entire career. This exhibition of around thirty pieces, is the first extensive presentation of his work in Sweden.

For over five decades, John Baldessari (1931–2020) explored the relationship between text and image and what emerges when the two are brought together. His conceptual artworks often have an underlying streak of humour and irony. The exhibition spans Baldessari’s entire career and shows the breadth of his artistic practice: you encounter paintings, photographs, the moving images and the traces of performative acts. In many of John Baldessari’s artworks the actual selection process is a central theme. Among the works presented in the exhibition, there are examples of how Baldessari entrusts the choice or decision to someone else or chance, or how he sets up playful rules that limit the choices that shape the artworks.

Baldessari realised early on that a photographic image or different types of text could express his artistic intentions better than a painting. In his practice, he often brought together art-historical elements and popular culture to create unexpected juxtapositions. Hollywood and discarded black-and-white stills from film productions were a constant source of material. Later he started obscuring individual faces on photographs behind coloured dots, making the figures anonymous and allowing the gaze to be drawn to other parts of the image.

Throughout his artistic career, Baldessari was interested in the nature of art, how it is made and what it looks like. Language and text became fundamental tools for him, as well as many other artists, who in the 1960s emphasised the idea behind an artwork rather than its aesthetic qualities. In the video piece “I Am Making Art” (1971), which is also included in this exhibition, Baldessari moves stiffly in front of the camera, constantly repeating the statement “I am making art” with a different emphasis on the words every time – a nod at conceptual art and the notion that all actions can be art.

Criticism aimed at conceptual art for just “pointing at things” inspired Baldessari to create the series “Commissioned Paintings” (1969). He asked a friend to point at interesting objects, had the pointing process photographed and commissioned an amateur painter to copy the photographs. Under the paintings, a sign painter was asked to write “A painting by” followed by the painter’s name. These “Commissioned Paintings” bear no traces of Baldessari himself and can be read as a comment on Abstract Expressionism’s conception of the artwork as a direct expression of the artist’s emotional life and genius.

Aris Fioretos – Atlas
A laboratory of a book, “Atlas” brings to life a parallel world that is deceptively similar to our own. Hovering between fiction and cultural history, we meet a universe of text in an eponymous exhibition. Aris Fioretos is the author of the book behind the exhibition in the Pontus Hultén Study Gallery. What happens when literature goes three-dimensional? The exhibition “Atlas” is based on the eponymous new book, in which Fioretos traces the emergence of a modern view on mankind in the decades around 1900. Together with gewerkdesign, Berlin, and the sound artist Peter Imig, Aris Fioretos has captured “the entire history of human suffering” in 24 scenes. Part book and part exhibition, “Atlas” offers insights into what one of literature’s most famous doctors (Frankenstein) called his “workshop of filthy creation”.

Aris Fioretos’ new book, “Atlas”, fuses essay and fiction. His three previous novels, “Irma”, “The Truth about Sascha Knisch”, and “Nelly B:s Hjärta” (Nelly B’s Heart), are based on historical facts up to 1933. The three protagonists are connected but also independent – like body organs. Stockholm is important as the setting of the story, which is mainly about medicine and major social change. The exhibition is like a cabinet, where some 20 affective states are presented in an architectural model with cut-out figures. The model/table is in three parts, each coordinated with the three female protagonists.

It all started with an obituary. One day, Aris Fioretos discovered that an archivist at the National Board of Health had died at a very old age, leaving no kin. He wouldn’t have given Iris Frost another thought if her name had not been similar to that of a minor character in his first novel. Out of curiosity, he contacted the newspaper and obtained the number to the person who had submitted the obituary. When they met, life proved stranger than fiction. Not only had the deceased read his novels about how the brain, genitals and heart informed the view of mankind that emerged in the early-20th century, but had also commented on them.

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.

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.

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.