If Swedish is part of your DNA, if you would like to visit the country one day, or if you are just an art lover in general. Then you need to know at least a little bit about Moderna Museet (The Swedish Museum of Modern Art) located in Stockholm.
And who better to tell you than my wonderful childhood friend Camilla Carlberg. She works as a Senior Curator at the Moderna Museet. She is hugely talented, has been with the museum for years and is the person in Sweden I turn to if a have a question about contemporary art. Let’s all meet her!
What should everyone know about Moderna Museet in Stockholm?
Moderna Museet’s objective is to collect, preserve, exhibit and communicate 20th and 21st century art of all kinds. It has one of the world’s best collections of art, spanning from 1900 to the present day.
The photographic collection comprises works from the 1840’s onwards. The art collection includes key works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as new acquisitions by contemporary artists. Swedish art is largely integrated with the international works, presenting Swedish artists such as Vera Nilsson and Siri Derkert parallel with Oskar Kokoschka and Georges Braque.
What sets this museum apart from all the other museums of the same genre?
The collection is supposed to be the best one of modern and contemporary art in northern Europe.
Recently our director Mr. Lars Nittve launched The 2nd Museum of Our Wishes, which is a project that encourages donations to the museum to enable us to buy more art by international female artists active in the 1950s to 1970s, where our collection is particularly strong but there is a dominance of male artists. We have received a total of almost 50 million SEK which is what we wished for. It has enriched our collection immensely. Since we started, many museums of modern art around the world have started similar projects to be able to buy modern art by female artists.
Moderna Museet has a rather unique tradition since the days of our legendary director Pontus Hultén. He thought that children visitors are equally important as adults. Therefore the children’s workshop has always had a central position within the museum and it still has. He organized exhibitions that could be played in or were playful in themselves. For example SHE by Niki de Saint Phalle and other artists, where the exhibition room was in the form of a woman’s body (one of Saint Phalle’s famous Nanas) and the visitor’s entrance was between her legs. Inside, all kinds or artworks were displayed and a milk bar was placed in one of her breasts. This playful and experimental attitude is rather unique for a prestigious art museum I think, and it’s an important aspect of Moderna Museet that we are eager to preserve. (This exhibition took place in the 60’s. Progressive Swedes!)
Camilla, how long have you been at Moderna Museet? What is your role?
I started at Moderna Museet in 1995. I came fresh from University. I started out as an assistant curator in the photography department and then moved over to contemporary art. Photography was big in contemporary art then, in the mid-end nineties. I worked as an assistant curator to curator Maria Lind, who is now internationally famous and based in New York. When she left the museum I started curating my own shows of international contemporary art. Since 2006 I have been working as Senior Curator and teamleader for a new department called Learning.
Barbara Kruger’s installation at Moderna Museet (Between being born and dying, 2008)
What has so far been your proudest moment at the museum?
I very much enjoyed working with American artist Barbara Kruger. She is a legend, an icon within modern art. She was born in 1942 and became very big in international contemporary art in the 80s with her text-and-images based work. Her work like “I shop therefore I am” is very wide spread and known throughout the world. She is an excellent artist, clever, shy and quite friendly. In 2005 she was awarded with the golden lion at the Venice Biennale. The golden lion is only given to one artist per biennale, and only the very best get it. So she’s definitely good! At Moderna Museet we commissioned a very large work by her in our entrance areas (there are two of them) where we covered the entire walls with her texts and images. My proudest moment was when she and I inaugurated the work together in May 2008. I consider myself so fortunte to have worked with her as her curator.
There was a lot of controversy a few years back when the Museum moved into its brand new buildings desinged by the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Has the dust settled?
Yes, the dust has settled! In 2001 mould was discovered in the building. It was quite bad and people who worked here got sick from it. The whole museum was closed down for three years. During its closure we decided to do something about the things that we thought didn’t work so well from the beginning. For example, the walls in the galleries were not white, but pinkish! With little daylight, the pink gave a gloomy atmosphere to the whole place. So, the museum got a facelift and now we have a functional, light art museum. And we never hear people complain anymore!
What is an absolute must see and do at the museum?
Must do’s at Moderna Museet include: Lunch in the Restaurant with a panoramic view over one of the most beautiful parts of Stockholm. Visit the collection. Take part of our children’s workshop program (if you have kids). And see the Pontus Hultén study gallery with an unique art viewing machinery, a true “Deus ex macchina”.
What is your read on the “state of” Swedish contemporary art?
There are a some really good artists and a some really good art galleries in Sweden. The finance crisis hasn’t effected the Swedish economy too much, so institutions have not suffered as much as elsewhere. It’s business pretty much as usual.
List some contemporary artists that you feel have done a lot for Swedish art on the international scene?
Lately… Jockum Nordström and Karin Mamma Andersson, Annika von Hausswolff and Ann-Sofi Sidén.
Any new and up and coming Swedish artists that we should pay extra attention to?
I am following Christian Andersson, Jonas Dahlberg and Ann Böttcher… Three very different but all very promising artists. Cecilia Ömalm Krajcikowa as well. Look up these galleries: www.gallerimagnuscarlsson.com and www.nataliagoldin.com plus www.nordenhake.com. They represent these artists and many other interesting ones as well.
The museum shop is also quite lovely!
Yes! I buy books in our shop (we have the best selection of art books in Stockholm) and they also have great candy for those days when I’m tired and need a blood sugar boost! They also keep very interesting design items and I find the prices rather low.
Thank you very much, Camilla! I just learned a lot. I know this was a long post, dear readers. But brew yourself some tea (if you haven’t already) and at least skim through it because there is a lot of good information here to enrich your art knowledge which could come in handy in some dinner conversation!
Photos: 1. Private (Camilla). 2. Espresso bar – Flickr, 3. Pablo Picasso (Moderna Museet), 4. Interiors Moderna Museet, 5. From the exhibition Andreas Gursky, Works 80-08 (2009) – Flickr, 6. Anish Kapoor, Mother as a Void (1991) – Flickr, 7. “Hon” (Moderna Museet/Hans Hammarskiöld), 8. The children’s workshop Moderna Museet, 9. Barbara Kruger installation (Moderna Museet), 10. Moderna museet – Flickr, 11. The restaurant – Flickr, 12. Children’s workshop Moderna Museet, 13. Alexander Calder, The Four Elements 1961 © Alexander Calder/BUS 2009, 14. Cecilia Ömalm Krajcikowa Malmaison VII (The Gallery), 15. Giftshop – Flickr