Fotografiska in The Great Customs House, Stockholm, Sweden

Fotografiska is a centre for contemporary photography in the Södermalm district of Stockholm, Sweden. Fotografiska is a destination to discover world-class photography, eclectic programming, elevated dining and surprising new perspectives. Although it is seen as such to the general public, it is not a museum because it has no collections, does not conduct research and is for-profit.

The building
The Great Customs House (Stora Tullhuset) belong to the Royal. Tullhuset is a building at Stadsgården in Stockholm, which is believed to have been designed by Ferdinand Boberg 1906-1910, as he has not signed the original drawings. The building is marked in green by the City Museum in Stockholm, which means “that the buildings are judged to be particularly valuable from a historical, cultural-historical, environmental or artistic point of view”.

The Royal Customs House in Stockholm shows the typical industrial architecture for Boberg from the turn of the century 1900, where red brick as the facade material dominates. As at Värtagasverket, Brunkebergsverket and Tulestationen, also designed by Boberg, the facade is decorated with details in sandstone or granite that are reminiscent of the activities in the building. The facade is now k-marked. The house consists of a high part to the east and an elongated low part to the west. The total floor area is 11,000 square meters.

At Stadsgården, port operations have been conducted since the 16th century. During the 19th century, maritime traffic increased. Stadsgårdshamnen became too cramped and outdated to cope with the growing steamship traffic. The port was therefore expanded in 1875–1915 by blasting away rocks, increasing the water depth, strengthening the quay, erecting cranes and reservoirs. The city’s first steam crane was put into operation here in 1883. In 1870, railway tracks were drawn here from the main line. Stadsgårdshamnen became the city’s large piece cargo berth for European traffic.

Several large buildings were erected in the modernized port. Closest to Slussen, a large warehouse with seven floors was built in 1873, called “Maggan”. To the east of this, the Little Customs House was built in 1889. Over time, it became insufficient, which is why the Great Customs House was built in the years 1906-1910. The architect was Ferdinand Boberg, who also designed, for example, the main post office on Vasagatan and NK’s department store on Hamngatan. All these buildings are built in Boberg’s famous Art Nouveau style.

The large customs house housed offices in the part that had four floors as well as department stores and delivery halls in a part with two or three floors to the west. After a couple of years, problems were discovered with leaking flat roofs. In addition, more premises were needed. Therefore, the lower part was built in 1912-1914 so that it had three floors with sloping roofs. The top floor of the office section was also widened to the west to accommodate teaching premises for the Swedish Customs. Around 1930, a further extension was made to the house. Over the years, the building has been used for customs operations, customs schools, warehouses and several other operations.

The port operations at Stadsgården increasingly came into conflict with the growing car traffic towards Nacka. In the early 1970s, the cargo handling in Stadsgårdshamnen ceased. The ferry traffic remained. All old buildings except the Great Customs House were demolished in the early 1970s when the main traffic route was built.

Customs clearance in the Great Customs House ceased in 1975. But the Swedish Customs retained the building as a school and archive until the 1990s. The building was also used to supply the ferries in the port with consumables, food and drink. The property is owned and managed by the City of Stockholm through the Ports of Stockholm. The building was renovated and refurbished from 2007 at an estimated cost of SEK 235 million.

There were many ideas for future use of the Great Customs House, including hotels, the Nobel Museum and the Abba Museum. Stora Tullhuset houses, among other things, the Swedish Photographic Museum, which was opened to the public on 21 May 2010. The plan was previously for the Customs House to become the ABBA Museum, but the idea was shelved.

The organization
Fotografiska was founded by brothers Jan and Per Broman and opened on 21 May 2010. In March 2021, it merged with NeueHouse and is operated by Yoram Roth and Josh Wyatt under the parent company CultureWorks. Fotografiska aim solely to inspire, entertain, and create impact. Photography is an inclusive medium with a unique ability to shape emotions, convey stories and effect change.

Fotografiska creates powerful and unparalleled rotating exhibitions, spanning various genres, in immersive environments. Fotografiska collaborate intimately with each artist, their galleries and estates to curate deeply personal exhibitions. We give artists a platform to exhibit their photography unlike anywhere else in the world, by bringing their work to life and turning it into a multidimensional emotional experience.

Fotografiska is housed at Stadsgården, in a former customs house in the Art Nouveau style dating from 1906 and has amenities typical of a museum: exhibit space, bistro, café, bar, conference rooms, museum shop, gallery, and event spaces. As of 2020, it drew more than 500,000 visitors each year. Designed by Ferdinand Boberg, the building is listed as of cultural interest.

Fotografiska was inaugurated on May 20, 2010 with the exhibition A Photographer’s Life 1990–2005 by Annie Leibovitz. Since then, it has had exhibitions with, among others, Anton Corbijn, Nick Brandt, Helen Levitt, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sarah Moon, Gus Van Sant and Christer Strömholm and Anders Zorn’s private photographs that were models for some of his paintings.

Among the exhibitions it has shown are: Annie Leibovitz, A Photographer’s Life, May 21 – September 19, 2010Gus Van Sant, One Step Big Shot, November 9 – December 5, 2010, and Robert Mapplethorpe, Retrospective, June 17 – October 3, 2011.

In addition to exhibitions, Fotografiska arranges training, lectures and workshops and has a café, restaurant and shop. Branches for Fotografiska have opened in New York and Tallinn.

In Fotografiska’s magnificent premises by the water with the city’s most scenic view is the event and meeting place of the future. 700 small and large events take place here every year: physical as well as digital and hybrid meetings. Fotografiska offer innovative, tailor-made concept solutions, all to enrich your encounters with world-class technology, art experiences and fantastic taste experiences from Fotografiska’s award-winning kitchen. Always with the vision to inspire a more conscious world.

Fotografiska Live is a new kind of live scene in door, a program with extra everything. From artist talks, guided tours, previews and openings – to more cross-border program items such as literature talks, club and live music, creative workshops and inspirational events from our sustainable and award-winning kitchen.

Fotografiska Live is a vibrant calendar that every week will invite you to the house and provide new insights and fun or unexpected inspiration. Here we strive to be what in French is called je ne sais quoi – have unexpected tickling quality, give our guests a chance to experience something sparkling, wonderful here and now and which does not happen again.

In Fotografiska’s reputable restaurants, Fotografiska always serve good and sustainable food according to the season. Fotografiska’s herbal kitchen was praised in 2021 with Guide Michelin’s Green Star – something we are very proud of. The creative food and beverage team at Fotografiska always strives to find energy that creates taste sensations on every plate and in every glass.

Venue rental
Fotografiska’s ambition is to create fantastic meetings for our guests. In what was once Stora Tullhuset, with a view of Stockholm and Saltsjön, we offer modern and flexible premises with a focus on world-class experiences. Always with a consistent sustainability profile. Fotografiska being able to welcome and take care of guests at around 700 meetings, events and private celebrations every year.

Fotografiska’s premises offer an environment that invites creativity, inspiration and playfulness. Here is the space, the light, the surfaces, the technology and not least the beautiful view of our capital. Fotografiska can also offer fully equipped studios to livestream your event, or create hybrid meeting formats.

Other locations
Fotografiska Tallinn in Tallinn, Estonia opened in June 2019. Fotografiska New York opened in December 2019 at the former church mission house in Chelsea, a historical landmark building. Fotografiska announced plans for a London location, but those plans were cancelled by the COVID pandemic. A Berlin location is slated to open in late 2021.