Stockholm Art Shows

Saw three art exhibitions Sunday with the ladies of my family.

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The Culture House, Kulturhuset, in central Stockholm shows US photographer Sally Mann‘s work, mainly selected from three collections: 1980s pictures of her kids (very controversial in the US back then because of child nudity, an issue few Swedes are able to get worked up about), 1990s landscapes from the southern US, and huge recent portraits of her grown-up kids where any documentary ambition is completely abandoned for out-of-focus fogginess. Absolutely wonderful stuff, and no photoshoppery, only analog chemical photography, much of it done with 19th century equipment.


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Across the hall from Sally Mann is a great big exhibition of Danish photographer Henrik Saxgren‘s portraits of recent immigrants to Scandinavia: Somalians working in fish factories in northern Norway, a gay Dutchman running a dairy farm in southwest Denmark, a Japanese mountaineer who went to Greenland and married a local woman, posing in traditional Inuit hunting clothes, and enormous interiors of dreary Danish refugee housing, with a tacky oil painting of an idealised traditional farm hanging askew on a bare wall. Each picture is accompanied by a short life history of the portrayed people, explaining how they ended up in Scandinavia and what they’re doing here. There must be at least 50 pictures there, each a slice of life, and engrossing even if you don’t happen to be the spouse of an immigrant like I am.

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Just a few blocks away is the Dance Museum, which shows a healthy sample of playful Czech Art Noveau innovator Alphonse Mucha‘s work. My colleague Zuzana Polaskova curated an even bigger Mucha show at the Museum of National Antiquities less than ten years ago, and that one included his nationalistic Slavic Epic suite of obscenely large and sombre oil paintings. Old Mucha was in fact one of the first to be imprisoned when Nazi Germany invaded Prague, and died shortly afterwards. Though lacking the monumental things, the Dance Museum has a great number of smaller-format works, including some jewellery and other craft pieces that Mucha designed. Thoroughly enjoyable, not least the exuberant 1890s ad posters and the studio photographs, with one shot of an aged Mucha posing in the habit of a Catholic priest, speaking from a pulpit, to be used for a painting of Jan Hus.

On our way home, I spotted a poster for a stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s creepy novella Coraline, opening on 3 March. The production is aimed at kids from ten upward, but believe me, if it’s anywhere near as scary as the book, then my kid’s are so not going. An animated film is also in the making.

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