No sex please, we’re Swedish
Nationalists call for a return to tradition
By Clemens Bomsdorf. Web only
Published online: 28 October 2010
LUND. The first members of the right-wing nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD) party to be elected to the country’s parliament are attacking the government’s cultural policy. They are demanding that instead of supporting exhibitions of abstract or conceptual art the state should focus on cultural history.
“Taxes are being spent on exhibitions that the public is not interested in, for example non-figurative art. Instead we should focus on values that create a feeling of togetherness,” Erik Almqvist, a spokesman for the SD, told The Art Newspaper. He is one of 20 SD candidates who won seats at the September election. Before that the SD was only represented at local level.
In 2007 Almqvist argued against a Lund museum showing Andres Serrano’s exhibition “A History of Sex”. “These works are pure pornography and I have difficulty identifying them as art. We are subsidising a cultural elite. Instead, the money should be put into exhibitions people want to see,” he said at the time. The exhibition went ahead but was attacked by right-wing extremists.
“The SD has a populist view of art and might be able to influence the public debate quite heavily”, Sune Nordgren, former director of The Baltic in Gateshead said. Sweden’s governing Alliance party, a coalition of four centre-right parties, is two seats short of a majority, so smaller parties such as the SD are gaining influence. Nordgren says controversial art was already becoming more difficult to exhibit since the Alliance came to power in 2006.
“The Christian Democrats and the Liberal People’s Party from the coalition partly echo the view of the SD,” said Nordgren. All three parties are arguing against a cultural elite and want to see more support for culture with Swedish roots, he said. “In Sweden we have a climate in which those who appreciate paintings that depict something should apologise straight away,” Göran Hägglund, leader of the Christian Democrats, complained recently.
Mats Persson, secretary general of the Association of Swedish Museums said: “I fear that we will now see in Sweden what we have seen elsewhere in Europe: that other political parties adopt the rhetoric of the right. We have to accept that some art might be difficult to understand, but it is this questioning that society needs.”
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