Moderna Museet Director Daniel Birnbaum

Daniel Birnbaum: The Modern Director 0

Interview by Anna Iltnere

On the morning of October 6, the exhibit Turner, Monet, Twombly: Later Paintings was opened at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The exhibit provides an unprecedented opportunity to view world-class works by three leading artists of three different eras — who could be each other’s great-grandfathers — alongside one another. The exposition is open to visitors from October 8 through January 15, when the show will travel further to Stuttgart and then to Liverpool.

At the entrance to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Read more about the exhibit in subsequent materials on

The exhibit was unveiled with an introductory speech by Moderna Museet Director Daniel Birnbaum (1963), a Swedish-born art critic and curator with a PhD in philosophy, who assumed his position last year. His projects have included the 50th Venice Biennale’s exhibit “International Art Exhibit” (2003) and the 53rd Venice Biennale’s exhibit “Making Worlds” (2009). He was co-curator of the first and second Moscow Contemporary Art Biennale (2005, 2007) and has worked on a string of other art projects, exhibits, and publications. Yet in addition to this list I’d like to add another description: Birnbaum is a positively crazy guy who loves art with a passion, and with a trustworthy artist at his side he is even ready to color the rivers of Stockholm green.

But is Birnbaum like this still, even after assuming the position of the museum’s director? decided to find out. Here is our interview with Daniel Birnbaum.

On November 1, one year will have passed since you became director of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. Tell me, what plans have you accomplished, and what is there still left to do?

There will never be a lack of things to do. (Laughs.) But overall I was very lucky to take over the museum without an ironclad program, because I could implement changes right away. For example, I could include in the calendar of exhibits a solo show by the Berlin-based Swedish artist Klara Liden (1979), which is on view for a couple more days [through October 9] on the ground floor of the museum and which, together with curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist [often referred to in the press as a “super curator,” the most influential person in the art world], we had organized earlier, in the fall of 2010 for Obrist’s Serpentine Gallery in London. And now the exhibit is on display in Stockholm! I must admit that it was a bit like cheating—organizing a project that was already ready even before I started work as director… (Laughs.)

In terms of the big exhibit Turner, Monet, Twombly: Later Paintings—of course, I didn’t curate the show, and it’s not my predecessors exhibit [the previous director of the Moderna Museum was Lars Nittve]. This project is by Jeremy Lewison (Great Britain), a curator, Tate collection expert, and art historian. It’s a collaborative project between three institutions: the Tate Museum in Liverpool, the Staatsgallery in Stuttgart, and Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. Yet at the same time I am happy that we, Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, could produce the exhibit and are its first stopping point before the show travels to Germany and Great Britain. What is more, this has in a sense become my project, too, because even though the idea was developed before I got involved, I have physically devoted the last nine months to making the plans become an actual exhibition. >>