Exhibitions News Sweden

Galleries boycott Swedish art festival

Some have criticised the “Nordic” theme for being nationalistic and exclusive

Kingdom Eyjafjoll Koronahyperblá will be shown by the Reykjavik gallery Kling & Bang at the Malmö Konsthall

Commercial galleries and some non-profit spaces in Sweden's third largest city, Malmö, are due to boycott a new festival, Malmö Nordic (3 May to 18 August), because they consider the “Nordic” theme to be exclusive and are afraid it might appear nationalistic. The festival will coincide with the heats and grand finale of the Eurovision Song Contest, 2013, which will be hosted by the Swedish city in May.

Among the dissenters are the commercial galleries Elastic and Johan Berggren, as well as the artist-and-curator run space Signal, despite the involvement of the city's main art museums as well as smaller venues.

"The theme is boring and risks becoming political,” says the gallery owner Johan Berggren. "The term Nordic has not been discussed, nor clearly defined, is therefore arbitrary," says Elene Tzotzi, a curator at Signal, and says that the term "Nordic" could appear exclusive in a multicultural city like Malmö.

The festival organisers have greeted the withdrawals with dismay. "I think it is a pity, that [these galleries] don't want to take part, as they are important players in town,” says Göran Christenson, one of the initiators of Malmö Nordic and the former director of the Malmö Art Museum, which is taking part.

Other participants include the Malmö Konsthall, the Moderna Museet Malmö and around 40 other smaller institutions. The programme includes exhibitions of work by Ragnar Kjartansson and Edvard Munch at the Moderna Museet, a show, "The Nordic Model", at the Malmö Art Museum tracing the development of its Nordic art collection, while Galerie Leger will show “Nordic 2013”, a group show with artists from the region.

John Peter Nilsson, the director of the Moderna Museet's Malmö branch, says he has no problem with the Nordic theme. "The word 'Nordic' can mean positive things as well as negative. It can romanticise nationalism, but it doesn't have to. There are people from 142 different countries living here, and they are also a part of Nordic Malmö,” he says.

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5 May 13
15:55 CET


At a time when every village, town, or city has at least one Jewish museum designed by award winning Jewish architects featuring art by Jewish artists it seems a bit strange to be so self-conscious about who and where you are on the planet.

3 May 13
22:1 CET


since when regional has become a dirty word? Funny how Galleries care about nationalism and being all inclusive -bar anything that does not fit inot their international clientel agenda. For isnstance they dare not touch art with religious themes especially Christian. That is how liberal they are. I am also conscious that I have to apologetic and add that I'm not religious myself in order for the reader not to ignore me. But the double-standards is to flipping obvious.

3 May 13
20:48 CET


A quick internet search for Nordic does not indicate too much negative in the term, though there are lingering associations with white supremacism. It would seem instead that "Nordic" has replaced Scandinavian as a regional description. This is hardly new as the inter-parliamentary Nordic Council was formed in 1952! But why, I wonder, wasn't the name discussed beforehand, and why didn't the dissenting galleries pull out at the start? The organisers obviously have some self-examination to do.

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