The increasing polarization of Swedish society made an impact on the art scene in Malmö last year. Due to two election campaigns and an increase in fascist action, I was just as likely to meet with artists at openings as I was at various demonstrations. Moderna Museet Malmö (The Museum of Modern Art) closed down for an afternoon in order to allow its employees the possibility to take part in a demonstration against racist violence. The artist collective Woodpecker Projects organized one of the most talked-about exhibitions in Malmö this year, We Hate In Order To Survive, a group show examining the nature of xenophobic hatred (“it’s emotions, it’s propaganda and its logic”). A commercial gallery making headlines for exhibiting anti-Islamic cartoons and racist collage-posters was picketed, in a protest organized by artists. Many local artists have also joined the organizations working in solidarity with EU-migrants who now live in shanties throughout the city.
Moderna Museet Malmö is an offshoot of the museum of modern art in Stockholm. It took over the facilities of the former Rooseum in late 2009, and has combined exhibiting contemporary art with showcasing the large collection of the Moderna in Stockholm. Last year, the quadrennial survey exhibition of Swedish art, Modernautställningen, was hosted in Malmö instead of Stockholm for the first time. Moving away from the format of a prestigious nationalist survey, the curators opted for a thematic exhibition featuring artists from countries around the Baltic Sea.
Malmö Art Museum also sits on a large collection of artworks, and continually tries to find ways of exhibiting it through collaborations with other institutions. Recent exhibitions at the museum include The Nordic Model ©, which used the trademarking of the term “the Nordic model” as a starting point for looking back at the origins and nature of the characteristically Nordic collection of the museum. The exhibition involved contemporary artists in a dialogue with historical works.
Malmö Konsthall has recently found its footing again when the new director Diana Baldon opened her first show. The Alien Within consists of a survey of the works of Christoph Schlingensief that lead up to his revolving installation Animatograph. This is combined with discussions on the future of cosmopolitanism given by a think tank including Trinh T. Minh-ha and Saskia Sassen. The Konsthall is otherwise notable for its accessibility, based on such factors as free entrance, a pavement-level entrance without thresholds, and a spacious restaurant which is often used by local artists for informal meetings.
Among the non-profit art spaces, Signal has become an internationally recognized institution for its qualitative and thought provoking exhibitions. Talks and presentations hosted by Signal, such as their series on artistic methods, have been an important intellectual stimulus for local artists. At the moment Signal produces exhibitions in temporary locations while looking for a new site.
The performance art space Lilith Studios invites four artists per year to produce new large-scale performances, open to the public for extended periods of time. Active since 2007, Lilith claims to be the first studio of its kind in the world. Among the performances produced last year, The Abstraction by Brazilian artist Laura Lima received a lot of appreciation.
Among commercial galleries, Ping Pong and 21 are worth mentioning. Last year, they both hosted a group show of contemporary Japanese art curated by artist Leif Holmstrand, with the exhibition split between the two spaces. They continually provide opportunities for local artists to put on exhibitions, often showing recently graduated artists. Other news of importance for the eco-system of the art scene in Malmö is the recent loss of the gallery Elastic, which moved to Stockholm. Over the years, Elastic has promoted many conceptually qualitative artists from Malmö, and participates in international art fairs.
As commercial opportunities for artists are narrowing, the importance of academia for providing a career is growing. Like all art academies in Sweden, Malmö Art Academy is investing in artistic research and doctoral studies for artists. Research is focusing on identifying, understanding and developing artistic thinking as a specialised field of knowledge production. The artistic work is both object of study and method. Among others, Marion Von Osten, Matthew Buckingham and Apolonija Sustersic have all recently been involved in PhD studies in Malmö.
Several artist collectives have formed in recent years. Providing internal support and external promotion, ideologically and socially motivated, they hold an increasingly important function for local artists. Last year saw the studio collective Trumpeten form itself into an active group producing seminars, exhibitions and debates. They were motivated by a rainstorm which flooded Malmö and turned out to strike a heavy blow to local musicians and artists with basement -level spaces, destroying equipment and artwork, and leaving many without a studio for a long time ahead. Trumpeten is currently inhabiting a closed-down storefront on a shopping street, 1800 square meters provided to them by Folkuniversitetet (an educational association).
Traditional Keynesian economics mixed with Floridan rhetoric about the creative class1 saw Malmö city invest in infrastructure, in landmark architecture and waterfront apartments, and in university education. The boom years of Malmö also included a generation of young artists educated at Malmö Art Academy developing international careers, aided by the network of the academy, the activities at Rooseum under Charles Esche (2000-2006), representation through Elastic, and several other factors. The future of Malmö looks more problematic though, as segregation in jobs and housing continues to be at one of the highest levels in Europe and as the infrastructure is ill-prepared for climate disasters. These subjects will continue to shape the current generation of artists active in Malmö, the ways in which they organize and work.
- Richard Florida theorized the concept of the creative class and its implications for urban regeneration. According to Florida, cities with high concentrations of workers in the fields of technology, arts and education exhibit a higher level of economic development. Florida refers to these groups collectively as the creative class.