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Ernesto Neto. TxanArp, Fabiano Txana Bane sings “Nuku Mana ibubu” to Kauernd (Hans Arp), 2014

Scandinavia’s Core Art Events Taking Place In the First Half of the Year 0

The program schedules for museums and art spaces in the Nordic countries are chock full this first half of the year! Yayoi Kusama is continuing with her “Infinity” series of exhibitions, while Matthew Barney has something completely new to say about his previous years' achievements.

In creating this list of must-sees, managed to find some interesting links, and it seems that in the coming year quite a few Scandinavian curators have also set their sights on comparing and ontrasting: Oslo's Munch Museum will study the similarities between the scandalous figures of Robert Mapplethorpe and Edvard Munch; Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art is finally bringing together two icons of Swedish painting – Paul Klee and Ivan Aguéli; and at the contemporary art museum Magasin III, the Chapman brothers will present their modern reinterpretation of Francisco Goya's most well-known series of works, the Los Desastres de la Guerra etchings.


Matthew Barney
Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
February 26 – May 15, 2016

Matthew Barney as the satyr in Cremaster 4. Photo: Guardian

Matthew Barney – media darling and one of the most recognizable artists of his generation – has noticeably changed our understanding of sculptural language, and this February he will be presenting at the Fearnley Museum an exhibition of some of his most well-known works spanning the period from the 1990s to 2014. Featured in the show will be his 1991 piece Transexualis (decline) – a weight-lifting bench cast in petroleum jelly, as well as River of Fundament, from 2014 – a six-hour film saga based on the artist's seven-year meditation on death, rebirth, transformation and transcendence, and in which he has replaced reincarnation with recycling, but the human soul – with a Chrysler automobile.

  Munch + Mapplethorpe
Munch Museum, Oslo
February 6 – May 29, 2016

Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Edvard Munch. Madonna, 1895/1902

What do the 20th-century art-photography legend Robert Mapplethorpe and the iconic Norwegian painter Edvard Munch have in common? It turns out that more than just the fact that both were considered scandalous and incorrigible bohemians... First of all, they both focused on traditional genres – portraits and nudes. Both studied issues pertaining to masculinity, sexuality and gender. Also, the works of both are cut through and through with existential expression.

The exhibition Munch + Mapplethorpe also features a number of self-portraits done by both artists, indicating that both Munch and Mapplethorpe experimented with their identities, interlacing them with allusions to Christian figures and symbolism.

Yayoi Kusama | In Infinity
Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (HOK), Oslo
February 19 – May 15, 2016

Kusama with Pumpkin, 2010. Installation view at Aichi triennial 2010. In Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/ Singapore; Victoria Miro Gallery, London;
David Zwirner, New York; and KUSAMA Enterprise
 © Yayoi Kusama

Although the mother of legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama once knocked over her young daughter's box of paints and declared that she shouldn't bother returning home with her “smears”, Kusama stood her ground and is now in the sixth decade of her creative career. Beginning in autumn of last year, Scandinavia has taken upon itself to present the quintessence of this marvelous career through a series of exhibitions in Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki, all of which began with a retrospective at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.

“The exhibition Yayoi Kusama: In Infinity is a retrospective that reveals Kusama's interpretations of infinity in her works throughout her career – as a spiritual idea, as a cosmological perspective, and as a psychological abyss. Kusama's preoccupation with this big Nothing has been spurred by both desire and unrest. The exhibition introduces us to Kusama's body of work starting with her first drawings and sketches made in the 1940s and 50s, when she was still living with her parents in the small town of Matsumoto. These are followed by her extremely original paintings and installations from the 1960s (at which time she was a part of the New York avant-garde scene), and then by the colorful and breathtaking installation art that represents her current work.

The exhibition is based on the massive archive of Kusama's work, and also relies on the content of other collections; on view is a legion of the artist's earlier works, many of which have rarely (if ever) been put on public view. Included is the unique and relatively early version of Polka Dot Love Room, with its mannikins and wild lighting. A bit peculiar are Kusama's examples of fashion design from the 1960s, which is when she established the Kusama Fashion Institute in New York. Kusama's interest in fashion and design continues today – the exhibition also includes the artist's current design projects,” explains Marie Lauberg, curator of the exhibition.

Along the Coast. Gude and his students, around 1870
The National Gallery, Oslo
February 19 – May 8, 2016

Hans Gude. Innseilingen Til Christiania, 1874. Photo: National Gallery of Norway, Oslo 

Unlike the storm-filled seascapes dramatically put to canvas by the classic British painter William Turner (1775-1851), the visions of the sea as painted by the great Norwegian painter Hans Gude (1825-1903) are peaceful and emanating with national romanticism.

The images of the coast of southern Norway with swathes of sparkling seas and ships with wind-filled sails – subjects that Gude focused on in the 1860s – became not only the symbol of Norway (at the time, the world's largest sea-faring nation), but also the source of inspiration for a whole movement of maritime painting, a genre that the students of Gude then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe (Germany).

Lars Backer – Architect. A Pioneer of Norwegian Modernism
The National Museum – Architecture, Oslo
April 1 – August 14, 2016

If you're interested in the beginnings of Norwegian functionalism, starting this April the National Museum – Architecture in Oslo will be hosting an exhibition of the works of Lars Becker. Back when Norway's urban landscape was dominated by neoclassical architecture, Becker was stirring the air with talk of a new type of architecture; in 1927 he brought his words to life in the shape of the legendary Skansen restaurant. With this structure, the new era of functionalism in architecture had commenced in Norway.


The Nature of Particles
Jake & Dinos Chapman, Francisco Goya
Magasin III, Stockholm
February 26 – June 5, 2016

Jake and Dinos Chapman. Disasters of War, 1999 (detail)

The names Jake and Dinos Chapman are among the most scandalous in the British contemporary art scene, and were once grouped as members of YBA (Young British Artists), a faction that has by now entered the hallowed annals of art history. The Chapmans work with installation, the graphic arts, and painting. The violent scenes that they portray are often combined with absurd and humorous elements; the works are on-point reflections of society, politics and religion.

Read in the Archive: An interview with Jake Chapman

This time around the brothers have been inspired by Francisco Goya's most famous series of works, Los Desastres de la Guerra (1810-1823) – 80 etchings in which the artist illustrated the illegal acts and violations done to the Spanish people by Napoleon's army during their invasion of the country. Using Goya's motifs, the Chapmans have added contemporary symbols of violence to them, creating 83 etchings that they have titled as Disasters of War (1999). In order to highlight the dialog going on between the artists, 20 of Goya's originals have been put on display alongside the Chapmans' works.

Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Through April 24, 2016

Paul Klee. Kairuan, vor dem Thor, 1941. Photo: Moderna Museet

Ivan Aguéli. Egyptian Domed House, 1914 Photo: Juan Luis Sánchez/Moderna Museet

The tandem showing of works by Swedish artists Paul Klee and Ivan Aguéli is a kind of fantasy meeting of the two  – something that never happened in real life. Through their art, both artists reached out to another dimension – for Klee it was an another feasible world; whereas for Aguéli, it was the fourth dimension. Consisting of 86 works, the exhibition reveals the aesthetic and conceptual parallels between both artists. Thematically, the works portray themes such as creation, form, angels, signs and gardens.

Heimo Zobernig | wood painting
Malmö Konsthall, Malmö
January 30 – May 1, 2016

Heimo Zobernig. Untitled, 2009. Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lissabon 2009

The works of Heimo Zobernig, the Vienna-based Kontext Kunst (Context Art) representative, relate to the legacy of the discourses and themes of formalist, abstract and minimalist art, often establishing a close dialogue with the architecture and history of a specific place; which makes it only fitting that the various Zobernig sculptures on view at Malmö Konsthall complement the gallery's seminal architecture. Zobernig has also made use of the temporary walls that were built for the previous exhibition at the gallery, that of Joan Jonas.

Esko Männikö | Time Flies
The Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg
February 6 – May 8, 2016

Esko Männikkö Savukoski, 1994. From the Female Pike series.  © Esko Männikkö

Finnish photographer Esko Männikkö has been a mainstay of Scandinavian photography since the early 1990s. He is especially known for his portraits of elderly bachelors living in the sparsely populated villages of northern Finland. Männikkö's images balance somewhere between the poetic, the humorous, and the serious, floating in the space separating the documentary and the conceptual.


Ed Atkins
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
March 17 – July 2016

Brutally real … A still from Ed Atkins’ show at the Stedelijk. Image: Ed Atkins 

Ed Atkins, one of the brightest stars of his generation of artists, mostly works with high-resolution video and text; through these mediums he breaks down the generally accepted conventions that we have regarding the moving image and literature. Using a broad spectrum of computer-aided manipulations, he creates a world that is at once real and absolutely unreal.

Niki De Saint Phalle
ARKEN, Ishøj
February 13 – June 12, 2016

Niki de Saint Phalle. Les trois grâces, 1995-2003. Installed at RMN - Grand Palais, Paris 2015 © 2015 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved. Photo: Katrin Baumann

The art of French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle is manifold – from wild hunting scenes to sensual sculptures of dancing women and extravagant sculpture parks. It was Saint Phalle's vibrantly colored figure Nana that made her famous, and the endless variations of it have decidedly embodied the global female archetype.

The theme of women's relationship to the world, and their role in society, has always been a constant in de Saint Phalle's work, and is unfortunately based on traumatic experiences in her childhood and youth. It only follows that this large-scale exhibition at ARKEN has also chosen to emphasize the artist's radical activity and unusual strength in the passionate fight for women's rights. Her unwavering stance on gender roles and equality merges with such eternal issues as love, life desires, and personal emancipation. The universe that she has created is at once violent and dynamic, both obscure and humorous.

Fire Under Snow
New Film And Video Works At Louisiana
Louisiana Museum Of Modern Art, Humlebæk
January 26 – May 8, 2016

Poster for Fire Under Snow, by Ed Atkins. Photo: courtesy of the Louisiana

Fire Under Snow is the first exhibition of the year in which the Louisiana Museum will present for public viewing the latest additions to its sizable collection. Among these newest acquisitions are works by: the British poet and video artist Ed Atkins; the South African video- and photo-artist Candice Breitz; and the British artist Darren Almond, who was short-listed for the 2005 Turner Prize. 

Eye Attack
Op Art And Kinetic Art 1950-1970
Louisiana Museum Of Modern Art, Humlebæk
February 4 – June 5, 2016

Bridget Riley. Blaze 1, 1962

Eye Attack is the largest optical- and kinetic art presentation in Scandinavia to be held in the last 50 years.

Op art and kinetic art experienced their glory years in the 1960s. Op art basically consists of optical illusions that are based on the psychological reactions of visual perception. Works made up of lines or geometric compositions create a wave-like effect – the illusion of movement that is never real. Kinetic art, on the other hand, is about true movement; the orbit of man-made satellites around the Earth, the overcoming of speed and distance – these were the events that gave us this new form of artistic vision in the 60s – a vision that has turned out to be surprisingly enduring, and one that is still very contemporary.

Leonard Rickhard
ARoS, Aarhus
February – May 2016

Leonard  Rickhard. Høstlig Stemning, 1975-77

Leonard Rickhard is one of today's most notable Norwegian artists, and AroS is the first museum outside of Norway to host such a broad presentation of his works.

Rickhard formulates the vacuum of human existentialism through his images of quiet forests, red cabins, collections of mounted birds, and melancholy machine parts and construction models – just some of the common themes found in his works.


Auguste Rodin
Ateneum, Helsinki
February 5 – May 8, 2016

Auguste Rodin. Danaidi, 1885, this marble 1889. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen

An impressive exhibition of the works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), many of which were brought to Helsinki straight from the Rodin Museum in Paris. Specially highlighted are the relationships that this revered genius and reformer of sculpture had with his Finnish students – Sigrid af Forselles and Hilda Flodin.

Ernesto Neto
Kiasma, Helsinki
March 4 – September 4, 2016

Ernesto Neto. Photo: Camilla Coutinho 

Ernesto Neto, the arguable leader of the Brazilian art scene, forges on with the Brazilian modernist line in which the viewers' presence and participation play an important role. His flashes of art allow the viewer to step back from the daily commotion, then settle-down the mind and activate the senses. Neto gained his inspiration from the traditions and rituals of the indigenous Huni Kuin people of Brazil – the aim of  the rituals being the attainment of happiness and harmony, as well as following the wisdom of nature. Consequently, in this show Neto covers themes such as civilization and nature, sensuality, and the boosting of positive energy.

 Refugee, evacuee, human
Pop-Up Photography exhibition
National Museum of Finland, Helsinki
Through March 6, 2016

Santa Claus talks with three Iraqi asylum seekers, Durir (left), Omar and Ali in Rovaniemi in September, 2015. Photo: Kaisa Rautaheimo / Helsingin Sanomat

The Picture Collections of the National Board of Antiquities presents the Pop-Up photography exhibition “Refugee, evacuee, human”, with photos of refugees, evacuees, immigrants and migrants: people who have arrived in or left Finland over the course of several decades. 
Most of the photos are from between the 1920s and 1990s. The oldest photographs date back to 1893 and the most recent are from 2015. Read more.

Miķelis Fišers | Conspiracy Landscapes
Cable Factory, Helsinki
January 22 – February 6, 2016

Conspiracy Landscapes. Fragment of exhibition's poster

The exhibition space at Kaapelitehdas (The Cable Factory) is currently exhibiting the solo show Conspiracy Landscapes, by Miķelis Fišers – the Latvian artist and winner of Latvia's most prestigious art ward, The Purvītis Prize. In this show, Fišers continues with his favored theme – the esoteric – this time having sought inspiration from his recent travels to Peru and Bolivia. At the heart of these latest works are conspiracy theories and tales of ancient and repeated visits to Earth done by beings with much greater technological advancements than that of humans. Some of the featured works were created in areas with so-called “powerful energies”, if one is to believe the many conspiracy theories circulating about. 

Sibelius. One must live every note
The National Museum of Finland, Helsinki
Through March 13, 2016

Jean Sibelius. Lemminkäinen in Tuonela, manuscript 1896 with corrections by Sibelius from 1897 and 1939. National Library of Finland, HUL 0112
Andy Warhol (1928-1987): Jean Sibelius (c. 1953). Pencil, pen. Galerie Daniel Blau, Munich
Drawing was based on Yousuf Karsh’s now iconic photograph from 1949

Finland marked the 150th birthday of its most famous composer, Jean Sibelius, in December of last year, and events celebrating this milestone will continue throughout this anniversary year. Up through March 22, the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki is showing the exhibition Sibelius. One must live every note. On pubic view for the first time ever are the original manuscripts for his musical compositions, as well as Andy Warhol's portrait of Sibelius. Almost 130 artifacts dealing with Sibelius' life and his musical world are featured. According to the lore surrounding the composer, he was a true indulger who consumed unbelievable amounts of tobacco and alcohol; he also pursued the finer things in life, the kind that he believed befitted a composer of his stature. Unfortunately, his appetites were often too great for his financial reserves, and he drove his family into debt. When working, Sibelius required absolute silence; he would usually work at his desk, only heading to the piano with the score already in hand. One of Sibelius' greatest sources of inspiration was the natural world of the North and its corresponding mythology – especially the heroic legends and the Kalevala, the national poetic epic of Finland.