At the end of a monotone street in the Vasastan area of Stockholm lays a glowing piece of architecture. Its brass facade makes Sven-Harry’s Konstmuseum a remarkable sight but its stories and inherent qualities surely outshines the glitter and gold.
From behind trees and ordinary houses a massive, golden facade meets us as we are walking down Eastmansvägen in the northern part of Stockholm. The bright summer sky spreads golden sparkles on the neighbouring properties and the sight is even more alluring than what we had anticipated.
The art museum of swedish art collector Sven-Harry Karlsson opened next to Vasaparken in the spring of 2011 and has ever since been the home of one of Sweden’s largest private art collections. We enter and quickly realize that the bold architectural choices recur in the museum’s interior.
“I have always been interested in interior design and always hang my paintings myself because I know exactly how I want it. Everything goes together, carpets, furniture, the room and the art – they form a totality, and that is how they should be shown,” Sven-Harry expresses on the museum’s website, and this notion shines through in every detail.
A hovering foam car and thick brushstrokes
At the time of our visit the exhibition Swedish Art: Now! (From the 20th of April to the 6th of June 2016) occupies the galleries, highlighting a new generation of artists working in a Swedish context. As we step into the first exhibition hall we can’t help but looking up at Linda Bäckström’s (b. 1982) lifesize foam car which is hovering over our heads.
On the wall in front of us Sara-Vide Ericson’s (b. 1983) Totems is luring us closer to reveal its beautiful thick oil paint strokes that for a moment diffuses the motive and makes us forget the arrangement of hanging coats which the painting depicts.
The next room is missing a wall. Instead there is a huge glass panel pointing towards Vasaparken where people are taking sunday strolls, having lunch or playing ball. The installation consists of various mediums and expressions including Hanna Liden’s (b. 1976) giant donut and Emanuel Röhss’ (b. 1985) site-specific ritual tableau.
Unaccepted feelings, fake fur and colorful pills
Also inhabiting the room is one of our own favorites from the contemporary swedish art scene. Joakim Ojanen’s (b. 1985) work invite comic book-like characters into the distorted universe of socially unaccepted human feelings and his paintings and ceramic sculptures always seem to get to us.
The exhibition has also been taking over the staircase leading up to the roof top. Between every floor a video work from Nathalie Djurberg (b. 1978) & Hans Berg’s (b. 1978) Waterfall Variation-series is installed working as a kind of transition between other works. We are also met by Karl Norin’s (b. 1982) Bhutanese Thimphu, a wall piece consisting of blue, synthetic fur framed in a contrasting salmon orange frame and Anders Krisár’s (b. 1973) Torso 4, in bronze.
Further up the stairs a piece of Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg’s installation A Theif Caught in the Act is sending light flashes out onto the rest of the staircase. A blue owl is caught by the light trying to escape with a mouth filled up with colorful pills.
A replica of Sven-Harry’s home
We arrive at the end of the final staircase and enter a narrow corridor leading to the roof terrace. On our left there are windows revealing a home in a traditional swedish style, with walls covered in art. The house on the top of the museum is a replica of Sven-Harry’s former home, Ekholmsnäs Gård, but is unfortunately only open for the public in relation with guided tours.
The roof terrace works as the museum’s sculpture garden with works of influential swedish artists. The mix between the different sculptural works and the view over Vasastan on a bright summer’s day is the perfect end on an enriching experience.
An overdeveloped sense for beauty and quality
Sven-Harry’s Konstmuseum marks the birth of a new kind of art museum. After our visit the questions started lining up and we decided to send some of them to Sven-Harry himself to get a better understanding of him and his museum.
"I was born in Lund 1931. I had a difficult childhood because I am, what you at that time would call “word blind”, dyslexic. As I’m sure you know, when one side of the brain is underdeveloped, the other side develops more as a result; in my case a sense for beauty and quality developed."
Sven-Harry started his working life as a mason apprentice in his father’s construction company, became a master craftsman and studied hereafter economy on Påhlmans Handelsinstitut. He was expected to take over his father’s company, but chose to sell it, move to Stockholm and establish his own construction company in 1968.
He started to collect art in the mid-1960’s.
Sven-Harry’s collection grew to become one of Sweden’s most important private collections. But what makes an art collector take the step into establishing and running a museum?
“Two big institutions approached me and asked me to donate my art to them. It didn’t suit me because I believe museums today collect too much art down in their basements. The art should be shown to the people.”
A home for art and people
Sven Harry’s Konstmuseum differs from other museums in several ways. Of course there is the Ekholmsnäs Gård-replica which is quite unique, but the museum building is also renting out a part of the premises for businesses such as a design shop and a restaurant, but also some apartments - making it the only museum (at least that we have heard of) which is both home to art and people.
And then there is the gold. When we ask Sven-Harry about the significant brass facade his answer is seemingly affected by humbleness. “The producers of the brass could give me a guarantee that the facades color would last a minimum of 20 years. The color also corresponds with neighboring buildings.”
But when golden threads spread so cleverly all through out the identity of the museum (in business cards, signage and even in the gaps between the bathroom tiles) there must be more to it than just plain coincidence. Either way, we really love it. :)
Sven-Harry’s Konstmuseum is a truly inspiring place and a proof that you can do things in a different way. It’s a place for both art and people and it’s a glowing piece of architecture at the end of a somewhat grey street. Be sure to pay Sven-Harry’s Konstmuseum a visit next time you are in Stockholm.
Rikke Luna (f. 1988) og Matias Albæk-Falk (f. 1988) er stiftere af idoart.dk, og driver derudover formidlingsbureauet I DO ART Agency samt forlaget I DO ART Books. Rikke og Matias bor og arbejder i København.