Galleries boycott Swedish art festival
Some have criticised the “Nordic” theme for being nationalistic and exclusive
By Clemens Bomsdorf and Hanne Cecilie Gulstad. Web only
Published online: 01 May 2013
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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