Stockholm’s metro system hosts the world’s longest art gallery.
One of my surprise finds in Stockholm was the subway. I knew there was a subway and I knew it was supposed to be quite simple to use. What I didn’t know was that the subway system is also a massive art gallery.
Out of 100 stations, ninety are highly decorated with a range of sculptures, mosaics, paintings and engravings created by over 150 artists. As the subway stretches over 110km, it claims to be the world’s longest art gallery.
I shouldn’t have been surprised as it’s no secret.
This Stockholm website even has a page dedicated to it and advises the best stations to visit. I really don’t know how I missed finding out about it, but I guess it had something to do with me focussing all my research on the Kungsleden and not thinking too much about what I’d do after I’d finished walking.
The good thing about not knowing anything about it in advance was that I got to be surprised when I found myself in my first decorated station. I wandered round taking photos before getting on the train and finding another decorated station when I alighted.
Art in the stations began in the 1950s as a way of making culture accessible to all. Throughout the intervening decades more art has been added with the art from each decade encapsulating the hopes and fears of the time.
The 1950s and ’60s were a time of new prosperity after the Second World War, but were also the era of the Cold War. Both are reflected in the art.
As time progresses the art reflects the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, the individualism of the 1980s and the environmental concerns of more recent times.
I didn’t get to visit many stations, but next time I’m in Stockhom I’m going to work out a route so I get to see as many as possible.
Update: The Guardian has featured the art in the Tunnelbana and has a good write-up.
Naked anglers, plates of spaghetti and men propping up a bar. Well, it is modern art.
I like art.
Modern art I either love or just don’t get.
As I wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance of seeing art I might love, I had to visit Stockholm’s Moderna Museet.
I went to the late-night opening after spending the whole day wandering around the sculptures at Millesgården and so was pretty tired and had already seen quite a lot of amazing art that day.
It probably wasn’t the best time to go, but I only had four days and wanted to make the most of them. I thought being tired and all arted-out might have swayed my opinion towards the negative end of the spectrum. But no, I got a new lease of life and really enjoyed the museum and the art and was really glad I’d made the effort rather than just going back to the hostel and lying on my bed with my Kindle and a cup of tea.
The first thing I saw, before I even got up to the museum was yet another Carl Milles sculpture. Good job I like them.
Once in the grounds of Moderna Museet I came across this installation.
Calder is an American sculptor who lived from 1898 to 1976. The Four Elements was created as a giant metal sculpture (it stands about 10 metres tall) in 1961 from a model he’d originally made in 1938. The sculpture is motorised and turns slowly. I love bright blocks of bold colour so this was a winning start for me.
The museum is on the island of Skeppsholmen which was formerly a naval base. The museum began its life in what had been the drill hall. In 1998 a new specially designed building was built to house the museum. This now adjoins the old drill hall which these days houses the architecture museum.
The modern new building is light and spacious. Although there were quite a lot of visitors, it never felt crowded. And there were plenty of benches I could sit on to rest my tired legs admire the art.
Here’s another nice bench to sit on. This one also has a good view of more than just the art.
The art really interested me, particularly an exhibition of Nils Dardel’s work, and below are photos of a few of my favourite pieces.
In 1917 Dardel travelled through Russia after a visit to Japan. It was the time of the Revolution and his painting of the Trans-Siberian Express shows both the exterior of the train passing through the countryside and the interior with the carriages filled with soldiers.
This picture appealed to me both as a piece of art and because I’m interested in the Trans-Siberian Express and even have a journey aboard it listed as one of my 60 things to do before I’m 60.
This painting of men propping up a bar shows that some things never change.
The above three Nils Dardel paintings show how the same idea can be used multiple times. I could take a blogging lesson from this!
These two paintings of The Dying Dandy have subtle differences. I found it really interesting to see different versions of the same painting side-by-side like this.
There was something about this one that really drew me towards it (and no, not just because it’s a naked man).
There was a lot more to see than just the Nils Dardel exhibition, though that was my favourite part.
I didn’t really understand this part of the exhibtion.
Nor this bit. Though I did sort of like the sheep.
And I think the only reasons I liked this one are because I used to drive a Ford and one of my niece’s favourite foods is tinned spaghetti. So it reminded me of my first car and my niece. I’m really not sure how spaghetti fits in with the title though.
The spaghetti was making me hungry and it had been a long day. But as I still had a little bit of time left before the museum closed, I ignored my rumbling stomach and paid a quick visit to the adjoining architecture museum which was included with the price of my ticket.
The former home of Carl Milles is now a sculpture garden dedicated to his work.
Millesgården is fabulous. Especially on a hot, sunny day.
This was my first day in Stockholm after my travels ‘up north’ and I didn’t want to miss a moment of the sunshine by spending it indoors.
A metro from the hostel followed by a bus journey and a 10 minute walk brought me to the former home of sculptor Carl Milles and his wife Olga. The house and the beautiful garden were given to the people of Sweden in 1936 and now form a museum and stunning sculpture garden.
As Stockholm splashes itself across an archipelago, you’re never too far from water. Millesgården is no exception and the Baltic laps at the edges of the garden providing some lovely views.
The various parts of the garden have been designed to reflect different themes such as the Lower Terrace which was inspired by an Italian piazza (the Milleses spent many winters in Rome).
The house contains art and more sculpture.
A smaller, separate, house is known as ‘Anne’s House’. This was built in the 1950s when Carl and Olga returned from living in the USA. The house was lived in by Carl’s assistant, Anne. The house has been left as it was and the rooms can be viewed through glass panels.
I spent pretty much the whole day wandering around and went completely overboard with the number of photos I took.
Millesgården’s website has a lot of information about the history of the house and garden and the stories behind the sculptures.
An exhibition on Nordic Art was a great way to start my visit to Groningen.
Arriving on the train from Amsterdam this morning I went straight to the Groningen Museum. This made sense as the museum is right in front of the station, lying on an island in the canal that runs in front of the station and circumambulates the old part of the city, effectively turning the whole of the old city into an island.
Groningen Train Station
It also made sense because I could leave my heavy bag in the cloakroom and so didn’t have to walk round with it for a few hours. I’m only in Groningen for 3 days and so only have my daypack but it’s still heavy to be lugging around with me all day. The hostel is on the far side of the town, only a 20 min walk from the station but still … and I couldn’t check in till after 3pm anyway.
It cost a hefty 13 euros to get into the museum and I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a museum year card at 49 euros but worked out I probably wouldn’t get my money’s worth. When I used to come to the Netherlands more often I always had a museum card and it was so much nicer not having to worry about the cost when going to museums.
I had no idea what to expect from the very modern multi-coloured building (a complete contrast to the old ornate train station opposite) so hoped I wasn’t to be disappointed. I wasn’t.
The current special exhibition is on Nordic Art and blew my mind. The colours! The light! The impact! I had never heard of any of the artists but now have a few new favourites.There were artists representing all five countries which are considered Nordic – Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland. I spent well over an hour walking from room to room trying to take it all in.
Yin Xiuzhen ‘Weapon’ 2003-2007
Another exhibition which caught my attention was the a display of weapons hanging from the ceiling of one of the rooms, all at different heights. Each ‘weapon’ had a kitchen knife tip but the hilt was made from old clothes; stretched jumpers and the like. It was all rather colourful and effective. Here’s the blurb:
Resembling darts that appear to be heading directly toward their target, these colourful objects look not only dangerous but also comical. On the one hand, the threat is reinforced by the knives that are attached to the spear-like objects, but the fact that these are primarily kitchen knives, in conjunction with the feature that they are made of second-hand clothes, emphasizes their domestic nature. The ‘weapons’ evoke the idea of TV masts, which have similar form and function all over the world. To Yin, they are the ultimate weapon. After all, they control the flow of information like gigantic filters.
How deep and meaningful is that?
I sat in the theatre for an hour watching a Michael Palin film about Danish artist Hammersvoi. I’d never come across this programme before let alone the artist so learnt quite a lot.
The rest of the museum I wasn’t so interested in. The regular collection, which was actually quite good, couldn’t excite me after the Nordic Art exhibition. I also found a basement room full of crockery. China displays never really interest me at the best of times and this one didn’t either. What I did like about it was the way it had been displayed. The glass cabinets were all shrouded by a maze of net curtains. It really was like a maze and got quite disorientating walking around trying to see everything and never knowing what was going to be behind the next curtain. In one space the exhibits were actually in the floor with a layer of glass over them. I think it was meant to be representative of how some of these exhibits have been ‘discovered’ but as there was no information it was difficult to be sure.
Finally I saw an exhibition of Russian women artists which at another time I probably would have really enjoyed but by this time I was all museum-ed out and had achey legs and an empty stomach. I retired to the restaurant for an expensive panini and a cup of coffee before wandering round town and finding my hostel.
Here are some of the amazing Nordic Art paintings I saw:
A magical forest of greens and autumnal colours slowly swayed; in the distance a black nebula, suspended in space, dwarfed the folk wandering below.
I was at Manchester Art Gallery for The First Cut exhibition. I’d heard good things about it, but even so, I was still completely blown away by the ideas, skill and paper transformations on show. On the stairs leading up to the gallery was a patchwork quilt made from squares of maps. It was only when up close I could see that it wasn’t actually made from patterned material. Through the door the forest of giant leaves could be seen. Large branches were suspended from ceiling, each with huge leaves, covered with woven strips of paper, attached. Walking amongst them created a slight draft and they all gently swayed.
Some of the works were huge, such as the floor to ceiling length nebula cut from black paper. Others were tiny such as a tree cut from, and sitting inside, a Burger King bag. Each of the works was delicately formed with painstaking detail.
Many of the works had philosophical and political ideas behing them, such as the world map in which each country had been created from its own bank notes. The detail was so exact even the tiniest specks of islands had been symbolised by their own currency. (The UK was represented by a £5 note).
A whole section was devoted to works made from books. Pages had been gouged and the paper from them made into train tracks, flowers, people. A man, suspended from above looked as though he was swimming through the air. Closer inspection revealed him to be a stack of books with the bindings intact along his spine, but the pages carved and sculpted to create his form.
A motorbike made from paper, a gun made from US dollars, a dress made from maps: all life-size. A garden made from books of wild flowers. Hundreds of the books were arranged on the floor with flowers carefully cut from their pages and stood on end, arranged to form a beautiful symmetrical garden with, for some reason, frogs jumping around in the middle.
Scattered throughout the rest of the art gallery were other works such as a swarm of butterflies pinned to a wall around the Victorian paintings, pinned in the way Victorian naturalists would have done with their specimens. Each butterfly was made from a map and had been cut with tiny detail. In one corner, a pile of 12,000 individually and delicately feathers cut from maps.
Description, and even photographs, can’t do this exhibition justice. I bought the book, but more as an aide memoire and for the information about the artists and their works, than as a pictorial representation of the works. I didn’t take any photographs myself as my camera batteries died but here’s a link to someone who did. And his pictures are much better than any I could have taken myself anyway. Below is a video of the artists talking about their work.
I found some wonderful sketches of Hong Kong in a magazine I subscribe to.
Saudi Aramco World is a free bimonthly magazine distributed by the oil company ‘to increase cross-cultural understanding [and] to broaden knowledge of the cultures, history and geography of the Arab and Muslim worlds and their connections with the West.’
I’ve been on the mailing list for this publication for some time now and I always enjoy the variety of articles it includes. The recent copy really surprised me however, with the cover awash with a water-coloured sketch of Hong Kong. The corresponding article spreads over ten pages and consists of more of these sketches each annotated with relevant text in a hand-written style font.
The focus, of course, is of Muslim life in Hong Kong, but includes anecdotes of a more general nature. One in particular that struck me highlights how the passage of time, particularly where politics is concerned, is thought of differently by the British and the Chinese. A cartoon about the ceding of the whole area of Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997, rather than just the New Territories as stated in the original 99 year agreement, shows both Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping thinking they are victorious because they have ‘persuaded’ the other to agree to a fifty year period of compromise: the thought bubble above Thatcher reads 50 years is LONG time – 200 quarterly statements! – will he notice?; whilst Xiaoping’s thought bubble reads 50 years is just around the corner. Does she realize this?
The article is titled Hong Kong Day and Night and is written and illustrated by Norman MacDonald. I hadn’t heard of him before, but assumed he must be a long-time resident as he has been able to get his teeth into the underbelly of Hong Kong rather than merely regurgitating the superficial top layer of skin, which is all most ‘stop-over’ tourists ever get to experience. I googled him and found from his website that he’s actually resident in Amsterdam, which, along with Hong Kong, is another city I like and have spent lots of time in. I can feel an affinity developing here – maybe this is why I was so drawn to his work. I don’t think he holds exhibitions but he has had work published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines so I’ll have to keep my eye out for more of his work.
Wish I’d allowed more than 2hrs to see this fantastic exhibition.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Hockney exhibition whilst I was in London. The online allocation of tickets had long been sold out so I was reliant on buying a ticket once I arrived. The queue for same day tickets was an hour or two long, but for next day tickets it was only 5-10 minutes long. Lucky me.
The following day I turned up and got straight in. It was quite crowded but the timed tickets made sure it wasn’t over-crowded and so it was still easy to get a good look at everything.
The exhibition was much bigger than I’d expected and spanned a period of about fifty years. Many of the paintings depict landscapes, including a series showing the same countryside scene throughout the four seasons.
Not all of the works were paintings however. Several large scales images were actually made up of hundreds of polaroid photos. These photographs were each taken of a tiny part of a huge landscape such as the Grand Canyon and then pieced together jigsaw style to create a whole huge image. The look was really effective and this is something I really must try at some point. I don’t have enough wall space (or enough patience) to do anything on his scale, but even a smaller version would be fun to try.
Hockney has recently discovered iPads and has been using one for his intial sketches. One exhibition room had a series of iPads showing the sketches he’s done. In one of the main exhibition rooms was a group of primary school children all squatting on the floor with their own iPads copying his paintings. It was fascinating to watch them and seeing the iPads in use – they were getting almost as much attention as Hockney!
One of the best exhibits was a series of films. Hockney was born in Bradford but has lived in Los Angeles for decades. A few years ago he came back to Yorkshire to spend time with his sick mother and rediscovered his love of the place. He’s painted quite prolifically since then, but also got into film-making pioneering a technique using 18 cameras. The cameras were all loaded onto the front of a landrover at different heights and angles. As he drove slowly up a Yorkshire lane the cameras captured the scene from eighteen different perspectives. These films are shown simultaneously on eighteen joined together screens. There is some overlap which in itself creates an interesting effect, but mostly the perspectives merge well to give the impression of actually moving down the lane yourself. One camera, even with a wide-angle lens, shows such a restricted perspective but it’s only when seeing something like this do you realise how restrictive normal photography and filming is. I really felt like I was there and it seemed more realistic than any 3D film I’ve seen.
I spent about two hours at the exhibition and could easily have stayed longer, but I had to leave to ensure I was on time for my floatation appointment. I would highly recommend this exhibition, but do allow plenty of time.