Sweden

No sex please, we’re Swedish

Nationalists call for a return to tradition

Right wing vandals attacked and damaged works during Serrano's 2007 Lund show

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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Comments

22 Dec 10
9:43 CET

DAN, CHICAGO

" We have to accept that some art is difficult to understand, but it is this questioning that society needs" "We have to accept that some art is difficult to understand"- does this means only porn pics, slopped paint on canvas or droll mundane presentations of objects with no comentary are considered "difficult to understand". "but it is this questioning that society needs" Can't works of art that are more traditionally executed, raise social questions? Or is this exhibit another example of going the cheap or least expensive way of operating.

29 Oct 10
14:55 CET

CHARLES BOOT, HIGH WYCOMBE, UK

Is this the case though? In the UK the audience for such shows seems to be large and growing, or at least has been. It would be interesting to see corresponding figures for Sweden. If my memory serves me right, the shows of 'Degenerate' art staged in nazi Germany were amongst the best attended at the time.

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