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Art Agenda 2017: the Nordic countries 0

A selection of the most significant exhibitions for the first half of the year 2017: the Nordic countries

Compiled by Elina Ije
Part of the material courtesy of



National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen
19.01.2017- 23.04.2017

Albert Edelfelt. Virginie, 1883. Arla Cederberg Collection, Joensuu Art Museum.  Photo: Hyttinen, Kari

Following two centuries of self-isolation from the rest of the world, the 19th century saw Japan open its trade borders with the West. At a time when all things Oriental were the height of fashion in Europe, traditional Japanese art and household objects were genuinely admired by Western art collectors. The period of so-called Japanomania left a permanent impact on the European visual arts. More specifically, the French and English Orientalists were captivated by the opulence of Japanese culture, its silently seductive geishas and the samurai.

It was the filigree Japanese woodwork that inspired Vincent van Gogh to depict the elements of nature in such a thorough and detailed manner. Unsatisfied with stories and projections born from his own imagination, Claude Monet travelled from Paris to Oslo to paint the snow-peaked Norwegian mountain landscape, thus bringing the subject of the canvas closer to the nature of the Japanese archipelago. However, it was the Scandinavian modernists ‒ Edvard Munch, Carl Larsson and Vilhelm Hammershøi ‒ who found the Japanese minimalist aesthetics, the stylised depiction of nature and the elements particularly fascinating.

Examples of the influence of Oriental culture on the art of these and other artists are on view at the National Gallery of Denmark from 19 January through 23 April 2017 at the exhibition entitled Japanomania.

Joana Vasconcelos - Textures of Life
ARoS, Aarhus
Through 19.02.2017

Valkyrie Rán at ARoS. Photo: Agnese Čivle

Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos (1971) is currently one of the most spirited women artists on the international contemporary art scene. In 2012 she presented an impressive array of her works at the Palace of Versailles, and in 2013 she represented Portugal at the 55th Venice Art Biennale, where, in spite of the financial difficulties of her country’s national pavilion, she shipped the pavilion – in the form of a ferryboat – from Lisbon to Venice herself.

Read in the Archive: Joana Vasconcelos’ atelier in Lisbon: a place where Valkyrie and other giants are born

With the exhibition Textures of Life, ARoS will is presenting 16 stunning installations by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, among them: the high-heeled shoe Marilyn (2009), which first entered the spotlight at the Versailles exhibition; the dramatic kinetic sculpture Burka (2002); and a piece from her early career, Meeting Point (2000).

The central work in the exhibition is the 50-meter-long textile installation Valkyrie Rán, the largest work in Vasconcelos’ iconic Valkyrie series; after this showing, it will become the most voluminous item in the permanent collection of ARoS. These bright, organically-shaped creatures have been a well-known part of Vasconcelos’ oeuvre ever since the Versailles exhibition, and the series’ popularity was notably underscored by the 34-meter-long Valkyrie Octopus commissioned by the Chinese luxury hotel MGM Macau in 2015.

Spreading itself throughout the whole of the museum’s hollow core, Valkyrie Rán immediately overwhelms visitors with its force of color and form. It takes your breath away as you follow its hulk along the spiral staircase that spans the eight floors of the museum, and you must literally struggle to find a perspective from which to see the artwork’s massive body in its entirety. The “skin” of the creature has been sewn from fabric pieces manufactured by the Danish design textile company Kvadrat – 2100 meters and 549 colors in total. Formerly filled with polyester stuffing, the piece now makes use of inflatable inserts.

Gosh! Is it alive?
04.02.2017- 06.08.2017

Tony Matelli. Josh, 2010. Photo: Gary Tatintsian Gallery

Natural facial and body hair; dripping sweat; freckles; wrinkles; pores; capillaries and all but throbbing veins… Gosh! Is it alive? That is actually the title of the exhibition of hyper-realistic sculptures on view at the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art from February through early August 2017.

The strikingly accurate representations of human-like beings and their often deformed shapes are walking the thin line between the ethically acceptable and unacceptable. The content of the show provokes a confrontation between the reason and the empathy of the viewer, prompting existential reflection on the animate and the inanimate, the artificial and the natural and define your own views on artificial intelligence and gene engineering.

The show features 30 internationally acclaimed hyper-realists, including Maurizio Cattelan, Paul McCarthy, Erwin Wurm, et al.


Ai Weiwei “Tyre”
Galerie Forsblom, Stockholm
05.02.2017- 26.03.2017 

Photo: Per-Erik Adamsson

Galerie Forsblom is excited to announce the opening of its Stockholm gallery with Tyre, an exhibition by the renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The viewer will encounter works that oscillate between the rich iconography of Chinese history, contemporary expressions, and artistic predecessors and collaborators. The exhibition mirrors injustice as well as hope in contemporary society.

Known for his social commentary, Ai Weiwei has recently expanded his practice into the domains of documentary film and architecture. Ai Weiwei’s work is represented in many of the world’s most famous museums, including the Tate Modern and the MoMA Museum of Modern Art.

Georg Baselitz “The Heroes”
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
11.11.2016  - 19.02.2017

Georg Baselitz. Der Hirte, 1965. Photo: ©Georg Baselitz 2016

Baselitz has been called both a neo-expressionist and a postmodernist. He is among the most admired living contemporary artists and is known for his profound influence on the development of figurative painting. It’s impossible to confuse his work with that of any other painter, as the world that he paints is quite literally turned upside down. The exhibition at the Moderna Museet  is devoted to two early series, Heroes and New Types, painted between 1965 and 1966. They reflect a revised view of the concept of heroism in the aftermath of the Second World War, as well as identity and the then 27-year-old artist’s relationship to society.

Diesel advertisements 1991-2001
Fotografiska, Stockholm
18.11.2016- 5.02.2017

©Diesel Advertisements 1991–2001

Through 5 February 2017, a retrospective of the most notable advertising campaigns by the Diesel fashion brand will be on view at Fotografiska.

It was 20 years ago that the founder of the Italian denim brand Renzo Rosso joined forces with the Swedish advertising guru Johan Lindeberg to promote the new prêt-à-porter brand Diesel in the global market. At the time, it seemed almost a mission impossible, considering the fact that over 75% of the European ready-to-wear clothing market was already taken by the American company Levi Strauss & Co. Despite having no experience in retail, Johan Lindeberg managed to increase the brand’s Swedish sales from 1000 to 200,000 units in no time at all. What lies behind the Diesel brand’s twenty years of success?

It is the outlandish visual advertising campaigns where nonsensical word plays on socially relevant subjects like global warming, racism and public stereotypes are complemented by witty photographic stories which, among other things, also features the ‘protagonist’ of the advertisement: the denim clothing by Diesel. The whole Diesel communication was permeated with irony and provocation, and it is this approach that has succeeded in transforming a David into a Goliath and a denim brand ‒ into a lifestyle, a manifesto and a testimony of its time.

The authors of the fashion photography featured at the exhibition are David LaChapelle, Ellen von Unwerth, their Swedish colleagues Peter Gherke, Henrik Halvarsson and Magnus Mårding, et al.

Tony Oursler “M*r>0r”
Magasin III, Stockholm
Through 11.06.2017

One of the pioneers of the video sculpture, Tony Oursler has paid a lot of attention to the phenomenon of mass fascination with the electronic media, including television and video. His works are held in the collections of MoMA in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Tate Liverpool, Museum Ludwig in Cologne and other prestigious art institutions.

Read in the Archive: An interview with the American artist and video sculpture pioneer Tony Oursler

A number of human-like video sculptures are also on view at the M*r>0r exhibition. They mumble, invite, accuse and appeal to the viewers’ finest feelings; they seduce. They never stop telling their story. The works contain a wealth of references and codes, including mentions of mystical cults dealing with resurrection of dead things. This kind of video voodoo is on view at the Stockholm Magasin III Museum for Contemporary Art through 11 June 2017.


Takashi Murakami
Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
09.02.2017 – 14.05.2017

Takashi Murakami. Blue Life Force, 2012. ©Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Early February will see the opening of the first ever Scandinavian exhibition by the famous Japanese artist Takashi Murakami at the Oslo Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.

Takashi Murakami’s influence on Japanese contemporary art could be compared to the influence that Andy Warhol exerted in the USA. An art collector, a gallerist, entrepreneur and public activist, Murakami earned international acclaim with his monumental manga and animation-inspired works and his collaboration with the fashion brand Louis Vuitton.

The core of the exhibition consists of the works that led to Takashi Murakami’s debut on the international art stage in the late 1990s, as well as some of his recent works in which Murakami offers his take on the symbols and myths coded into the traditional Japanese painting. A separate room is dedicated to Murakami’s sci-fi films.

Under the Microscope. Gustave Courbet
The National Gallery, Oslo
Through 05.02.2017

Gustave Courbet. The Fisherman. Photo: Nasjonalmuseet, Annar Bjorgli

While the forgery of artworks has been taking place for almost as long as artists have been painting, the geometric expansion of the art market and the rise in prices for artworks, as well as amazing advances in technology, mean that the scandals swirling around forgeries are occurring far more often than before. Even the most expert of experts at prestigious museums often find it difficult to tell the difference between an authentic artwork and a fake. At the exhibition Under the Microscope. Gustave Courbet, which is now on view at Norway’s National Gallery, one of these thrilling stories is told in detail.

In 1947, the museum received Pêcheur à la ligne (The Fisherman) by Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) as a gift, but Courbet experts in France long doubted the painting’s authenticity. Their doubts were accentuated by the fact that Courbet’s style is easily imitated and the famous artist is therefore one of the most frequently counterfeited. He painted about 500 works, but collections worldwide hold about 5000 pieces attributed to him. Many forgeries have been discovered in recent years, but in the case of Pêcheur à la ligne, countless examinations testify to its authenticity. The Oslo exhibition is a visual story of how the museum reached this conclusion.


Mona Hatoum
Kiasma, Helsinki
Through  26.02.2017

Mona Hatoum. Cellules, 2012-13. Photo: Finnish National Gallery

Through 26 February 2017, an extensive and exhaustive exhibition by the Palestinian-British artist Mona Hatoum goes on view at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki.

Read in the Archive: An interview with Lebanese-born Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum

The show is an overview of Hatoum’s work dating from the late 1970s until the present day, featuring visual material from her early performances, her video works, photographs, installations, sculptures and various design objects.

Enter and Encounter
Designmuseo, Helsinki
24.03.2017- 24.09.2017

Ragamuf. Photo: Timo Junttila 

From 24 March through 24 September 2017, the Helsinki Design Museum and the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo are presenting an exhibition entitled Enter and Encounter ‒ an overview of the trends in Finnish design, highlighting the role of design in public life, the interaction between material and design and the latest technologies.

The works and projects featured in the exhibition are the response of professionals representing six different areas of design to the need for change in this field. The exhibition will present an overview of future perspectives of the Finnish design practice both locally and globally.

Alvar Aalto - Art And The Modern Form
Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki
12.5.2017 - 24.9.2017

Finnish pavilion. World’s Fair, New York, 1939. © Alvar Aalto Museum, Esto Photographics. Photo: Ezra Stoller / Esto Photographics Inc.

The travelling retrospective of Finland’s most prominent architect and designer Alvar Aalto’s work, Alvar Aalto ‒ Art and The Modern Form, is going on view at the Helsinki Ateneum Art Museum from 12 May through 24 September 2017.

During his career, the functionalist architect Alvar Aalto designed a number of churches in Finland and countless public buildings in Europe and USA. Aalto’s opera house in Essen and community centre in Wolfsburg are considered to be two of his most significant projects in Germany.

The exhibition is a joint project with the Vitra Design Museum and the Alvar Aalto Museum in Helsinki. The Ateneum show also features a number of works by Aalto’s contemporaries and closest friends Hans Arp, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger and László Moholy-Nagy. 


Yoko Ono: One More Story...
Hafnarhús - Reykjavík Art Museum, Reykjavik
08.10.2016- 05.02.2017

Yoko Ono. Photo: Synaesthete (Courtesy Reykjavik Art Museum)

John Lennon once described Yoko Ono as ‘the world's most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does’.  Yoko Ono is a much-respected art-world outsider and one of the few women who have participated in some of the Fluxus group’s most notorious happenings. Her name is closely linked with human rights activism, an area in which the impulses of her wide-range creativity are rooted.

The exhibition in Reykjavík would not be complete without public response. Ono has appealed to women who are abuse survivors, asking them to share their stories. Another of her works is dedicated to all mothers; the artist invites people to share thoughts about their mothers on one of the museum’s walls.

The show also features 10 Yoko Ono-themed works by local artists, for instance, the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, inspired by a 1993 episode of the popular animation series The Simpsons in which a Yoko Ono cocktail ‒ single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man’s hat ‒ is ordered at Moe’s Tavern, has prepared a version of it in 3-D.