Sweden has a long tradition of public art; a belief that art has an important role to play in society and therefore should be available to everyone. This creativity often spills out onto the streets, with many pieces of street art showcased across the city.
Stockholm is a city infused with artistic talent, with excellent fine art galleries, exciting contemporary spaces and artists all seeking to push the creative envelope. When walking around in Stockholm, there is a variety of artworks scattered in parks, squares, along streets, and in the subway stations for everyone to enjoy.
Street art came to Sweden in the 1990s and has since become the most popular way to establish art in the public space. A notable example is the Itinerant artist. Street art can be expressed in many ways, such as pearl plates, knitted hats on statues or tiles on a wall. Common forms of expression are: posters, stencils, stickers and stick graffiti.
Street art is today often described in the media. The Street art website also reports almost daily on the phenomenon, either on the website itself or on Facebook and Twitter. A number of books in Swedish have been written about street art, including Playground Sweden (2007) by Kristian Borg, Ivar Andersen and Sverker Ohlsson, Street Art Stockholm (2007) by Benke Carlsson and Put color on the city (2010) by Kolbjörn Guwallius. The documentary The Right to the City (2008) by Kolbjörn Guwallius has also been widely circulated. Well-known street artists in Sweden include Akay, Klisterpeter, Ollio and Hop Louie.
As a model of public art, the Stockholm metro is well known for the decoration of its stations; it has been called the longest art gallery in the world. Since the 1970s, the ambition has been to let the architectural and artistic design work together into a spatial whole. The art consists of paintings, sculptures, mosaics and reliefs but also of video works and photography. In addition to fixed art and holistic stations, there are also temporary exhibitions. The Stockholm Region believes that the art at the stations contributes to a calm and safe environment and reduces vandalism and graffiti. The journey between different stations becomes something more than a transport, and travelers find it easier to orientate themselves when each station has its own identity.
At the end of the 1950s, T-Centralen was the first station to be designed in collaboration with artists. When the Red Line was planned, the ideas of artistic design had been established and almost all stations that were put into operation received some form of artistic design. During the 1970s and 80s, artists were hired to create an artistic overall design of each station along the blue and red lines. The artists entered the process at an early stage and together with the architects designed a common vision for each station with a type station as a starting point. By 2020, 94 out of 100 stations will have some form of artistic design. Several of the stations (especially on the Blue Line) are left with the bedrock exposed, crude and unfinished, or as part of the decorations. At Rissne, an informative fresco about the history of Earth’s civilizations runs along both sides of the platform.
Street art once strict distinctions in Stockholm. In a larger concept of street art can also include graffiti, as mixed forms also occur. To the protection of cultural relics with precious historical value and the facades of expensive modern buildings in the city center.
After 2014, art on the streets was allow, althought only can be done in designated areas, which make Stockholm the city with the most legal walls in Europe. The legal walls exist now, huge murals adorn some buildings, and graffiti and street art pop up here and there around the city. Graffiti is still not allowed in the Stockholm subway station, which will obviously seriously damage the original design.
In Stockholm, the more common street art is sidewalk art, because this form does not harm buildings and historical artifacts. Sidewalk painting is an art form that is often practiced with pastel crayons in public places such as squares, walkways and sidewalks. The painting usually disappears during the next rain or street cleaning.
The motifs may be reminiscent of the so-called kitsch art, but have in recent years undergone an increase in quality. The reason for this may be that young non-profit art students have taken up the activity as an extra merit. So-called large-format trompe d’oeil motifs have become popular.
With many pieces of street art decorating the buildings and walls across Stockholm and adding to its unique character, the city seems to have a vibrant, diverse street art scene. Some streets are adorned with charismatic stencils and massive murals made by both local and international artists. Eye-catching, thought-provoking imagery livens up a few Stockholm’s districts, including Rågsved and Södermalm, showcasing some pretty serious talent, flair, and technique.
Stockholm Konst, part of the City of Stockholm’s culture administration, is responsible for the commissioning and purchasing of art for Stockholm’s indoor and outdoor public spaces. The 1%-rule was implemented in 1963 by the Stockholm City Council, meaning that one percent of the total cost of built projects (including new construction, conversion, and extension) shall be allocated to publicly accessible artwork.
The statue of the cherished Swedish actor Margareta Krook stands on the corner of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, in the very spot she used to have her cigarette break in between rehearsals. The statue depicts her in her favorite outfit and is actually heated to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Made by artist Marie-Louise Ekman in 2002.
Art Made This is an urban art project where female artists make their marks on public facades and doors in the city. Learn more about the many artworks in their Instagram gallery.
“Vårbergs Jättar” (The Vårberg Giants) by artist Xavier Veilhan are two site-specific, sky-blue concrete sculptures located in Vårberg in southern Stockholm. The largest giant, resting on his back in the grass, is 19 meters long, 9 meters wide, and 5 meters tall.
Visual artist Yash’s mural on Södermalm street Luthens Gränd.
Hoop-La. There are many interesting public art pieces to be found on the lush, central island of Royal Djurgården. The latest permanent piece is ‘Hoop-La’ by artist Alice Aycock, acquired by the Princess Estelle Cultural Foundation in their planning for a permanent Royal sculpture park in Stockholm.
Subtopia is a center for art, culture, and social engagement in Alby in southern Stockholm. Its growing outdoor gallery with artists from all over the world is available to explore with an online guide.
The Iron Boy. You’ll find Sweden’s smallest public statue (and perhaps Stockholm’s most beloved artwork) ‘Boy Looking at the Moon’ (‘Pojke som tittar på månen’) in the courtyard of Stockholm Cathedral in the old town, Gamla Stan. Today he is simply called ‘Järnpojke’ (‘Iron boy’). The statue is only 15 cm tall and was made by artist Liss Eriksson in 1967. People often dress him in tiny hats and scarfs or leave him gifts.
Light art in Rinkeby. A group of secondary school children in the northern Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby created a light-art installation under the direction of light artist Marianne Lind and artist Stina Wollter. The results are six beautiful, bright art pieces decorating the street Rinkebystråket.
Max Ockborn’s art works in Bredängsparken. Max Ockborn has created site specific art works that inhabit and give character to a piece of woodland in Bredängsparken park in southern Stockholm. Three sculptures are cast in aluminum, and four larger rocks have been transformed into trolls.
Amara Por Dios Mural in Södermalm. Artist Amara Por Dios created a beautiful, organic and colorful mural in Ragvaldsgatan, Södermalm in 2017.
Mari Rantanen’s mural in Hjulsta. Artist Mari Rantanen interpreted thoughts and feelings of youths in the Hjulsta area into a vibrant mural pattern of circles in motion, symbolizing ideas such as growing energies, new life and openness.
Mihály Kolodko’s miniature statue in Nobelgatan. The Budapest based artist Mihály Kolodko has created a miniature bronze statue of Alfred Nobel just outside of the Hungarian Embassy in central Stockholm, to highlight the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Hungarian-Swedish diplomatic relations in 1920, and to celebrate extraordinary figure of Alfred Nobel, his legacy and his idea to work for the greatest benefit of humankind, but it also celebrates all Nobel Prize laureates all over the world whom we are all very proud of, including also those with Hungarian origin or with Hungarian connections.
Elmgreen & Dragset’s Life Rings in Royal Djurgården. The latest addition to the new sculpture park by Princess Estelle’s Cultural foundation is artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset’s Life Rings, taking a typically singular, reusable, lightweight, and often-weathered emergency tool, and multiplies it into absurdity. In this impossible-seeming tower configuration, it looks as if the life rings have mushroomed upwards, towards the sky. Each life ring is connected to other rings, creating a structure that resembles a chain-link system.
På Sergels Torg. The collaborative public art project På Sergels Torg connects the commercial life with artists to create a vibrant meeting space for everyone to enjoy in the heart of Stockholm.
The Stockholm metro system has been called ‘the world’s longest art gallery’, with more than 90 of the network’s 100 stations decorated with sculptures, rock formations, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs by over 150 different artists.
Stadion station – Artistic decoration by Åke Pallarp and Enno Hallek with the theme Stockholm Stadium, including the Olympic poster from 1912. The very eye-catching attractions “rainbow in the cave” is located at this subway station. At the exit to Nybrogatan 69 is a steel sculpture by Lars Erik Falk, Modular sculpture, erected in 1979.
Kungsträdgården station – The artist Ulrik Samuelson has designed the station with inspiration from the palaces, current and former, that have existed at Kungsträdgården. The artist Arne Fredriksson has painted most of the ceiling paintings. The floor is made of terrazzo (artificial stone), between the platforms is a god of war that previously existed on Riddarhuset’s roof, along the walls there are fifty mascarons and a male and female torso that previously stood on the palace Makalös, in the east there is an elm stump referring to Almskri in Kungsträdgården which was fought in 1971 in connection with the construction of the station.
City Hall station – The station is a mountain station blasted under the City Hall and the Äpplet and Smaragden neighborhoods. Artistic decoration by Sigvard Olsson with playful details from Kungsholmen’s history. At the eastern entrance there is a root vegetable warehouse, as well as hatches with numbers that act as inspection hatches. On the platform there are parmes (an old hay measure), a chimney foundation, a firewood pile, baskets and a 17th century-like portal.
Östermalmstorg station – Several different artists have contributed to the decoration of the station. It is dominated by Siri Derkert reliefs carvings in concrete that were blasted on the platform the track walls and has the theme “Women’s rights, peace and environmental movement.” At the underpass towards Birger Jarlsgatan is the wooden sculpture Kl. 9 by KG Bejemark. The concrete carvings are a work of art made by Siri Derkert. The work consists of two 145 meter long and 3.5 meter high panels of natural concrete, as well as some decorations in the floor and in other walls. Siri Derkert cared about the environment, peace and women’s rights, and therefore the theme was peace, women’s and environmental struggle. The international peace mark can be found on the floors. The walls are blasted in beta engraving with cartoon characters, family scenes and portraits of famous politicians and cultural personalities, including Simone de Beauvoir, Elin Wägner, Albert Einstein and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as the notes for the International and Marseljäsen.
Midsommarkransen station – A wooden midsummer wreath hangs from the ceiling, made in 1979 by residents at Midsommarkransen under the direction of three art torch students. In addition, there are the works of art Flowers for the Midsummer Wreath by Lisbet Lindholm from 1990 and a wooden relief by Dag Wallin. The painted wooden relief sits on one of the platform walls and the image of the summer night is meant to give associations to heaven and earth, life and water, paganism and the phallus cult, midsummer and magic.
Näckrosen station – The station’s art is made as a large collage of texts, stones, tile stove pieces, glazed bricks from the demolished Strindbergshuset at Karlaplan and various stands with, among other things, film props and photos from Filmstaden. The station is located in rock chambers 21 meters below the ground under the former film city. Ulrik Samuelson presented a proposal with a green-colored terrazzo in the floor and molded sofas as well as ceiling and sign stands in stained glass in a framework such as the inside of a greenhouse. Samuelson’s proposal was implemented instead (to some extent) at the Kungsträdgården station.
Solna centrum station – Artistic decoration by Karl-Olov Björk (1975) and Anders Åberg (1975, 1992), including various Swedish motifs that show Sweden’s problems in the 1970s and various peepholes. The station’s roof and walls are painted in green and red.
Tensta station – The artistic decoration at the station is made by Helga Henschen with the theme “A rose for the immigrants” with texts and poems in several languages as well as animal pictures and flowers. Between the platforms, birds sit on the rock shelf. The word sibling is found on 18 paintings in 18 languages.
Bandhagen station – Artistic decoration: a large ruler and a boulder made of Öland stone by Freddy Fraek, 1983. The ruler was originally made of wood, which was torn so hard that the ruler had to be clad in copper four years later.
Street Art around the city
Stockholm is a known trend setter in the arts, be it music, fashion or design. The city has only recently allowed graffiti to exist, and high-quality artworks are gradually appearing all over the city. Explore Stockholm’s emerging street art scene and contemporary art scene.
Snosatra is the premier location for anyone interested in street art in Stockholm and is a great place to start. It is deep in the south of the city and was once an industrial park. It fell into disrepair, but a group of people got permission to start painting on the walls. It has since turned into the largest graffiti exhibition in Europe. Huge is one of Stockholm’s key street-art figures, and paints amazing pieces of art that are almost like photographs in their realism, then adds his mark by adding stencils of helium balloons.
The breadth and quality of the art in the park is stunning. Mogul’s art has a similar vibe to Banksy’s, using stencils bearing political messages to both delight and challenge. Mogul has work dotted across the city, but often gets removed; Snosatra park is your best bet for seeing one of the artworks in situ.
Os Gemeos are a pair of Brazilian twins who have been making their mark across the world by painting murals featuring Simpsons-like yellow figures. It was a coup for the City of Stockholm to work with them to create the fantastic mural that adorns the wall at Fiskargatan. Their work in Stockholm features a mother with her children and is one of the most striking and interesting pieces of art in the city. The unmistakable style of Os Gemeos, the immensely talented twin brothers from Brazil. The mural is a remarkable artwork. The size, the colors, the details leave you speechless. Going through all intricate nuances, the shoes or notice woman’s nails.
Yash’s most famous work is located near to Skanstull metro station. He is inspired by the idea of creating work that is very colourful and contains interesting and unusual shapes. His work often combines people and animals, and is usually very simple and clear in its design and message. He has some work displayed in Snosatra, but this work, in the southern part of the island of Södermalm, is also worth checking out.
Street Art in Snösätra
In 2014, Snösätra (an abandoned industrial area located in Rågsved) was transformed into a graffiti paradise with different graffiti themes and styles when the owners of the buildings allowed the skilful graffiti artists from around the world to show off their street art skills.
Snösätra Graffiti Wall of Fame became one of the greatest open-air exhibitions of urban creativity in all of Europe. Every spring, about 150 graffiti artists visit the once abandoned industrial area to create new works of art as part of an annual street art festival, which includes a graffiti battle, music and DJs, and a virtual reality portion letting spectators express themselves through art. The festival is undoubtedly one of the most exciting events in the city.
Magic of the City at Frihamnsgatan
Magic of the City is a superb exhibition of street art, the exhibition is in Magasin 9, one of Stockholm’s main exhibition centres. Many of the walls are adorned with paintings and there are various interactive parts of the exhibition to explore. The art is in various different formats, with some works glued to the walls, others scratched in; some have even been crocheted.