The American-Scandinavian Foundation celebrates its centennial with an exhibition of contemporary Nordic Art. The works on display have been organized by renowned curator and critic Robert Storr together with independent scholar and curator Francesca Pietropaolo. There are paintings, photographs and video installations. In short: Something for everyone!

“Francesca and I have done shows together in the past,” explained Storr at the opening. “But making a show about five different countries connected in some way, is different. It’s complicated and presumptuous for people coming from outside to say something or report on it. It’s clear that Scandinavia is not just one thing in relation to the rest of the world.”

Fifteen artists are represented; eight women and seven men, and many include established leaders of contemporary Nordic Art such as Swedish Cecilia Edefalk and Dane Per Kirkeby.

“The attempt is to give a series of different tastes,” Storr said. “Right now video and photography are very powerful in Scandinavia. We decided to mix things up a bit.”

There’s an enormous, meticulous ink drawing by Swedish artist Gunnel Wåhlstrand featuring a boy in a school uniform seated at his desk studying. The surface is neat, but it also suggests an underlying tension. Cecilia Edefalk, whose painting “Baby” recently became the most expensive contemporary Swedish painting ever sold, is represented by two very different works, both of which pay homage to Swedish writer August Strindberg.

“He talks to me,” she mused. “I have long conversations with him.”
Her video installation consists of short, cryptic sentences and the imagined conversation with Strindberg, while her tempera on linen painting “Ande August” is a faint portrait.

Norwegian-born artist Gardar Eide Einarsson lives in New York and Tokyo and is famous for his politically charged works. Einarsson is represented by an enormous black banner with the word “anger” written in Japanese characters in white. Finnish New York-based photographer Saana Want shows her “Hujialou” series, featuring female figures with painted marks posing in bleak apartment interiors. Another Finnish artist is Petri Sirviö, the conductor of the Screaming Men’s Choir. Sirviö’s video in which his choir shouts the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2008 historic “sorry” speech, apologizing for his country’s treatment of the Aboriginals.

“At first I wasn’t really that into the speech,” Sirviö said. “But I changed my mind. I told the men in my choir that they had to learn it by heart, and that I would audition them. Whoever passed the audition would go to Sydney, Australia, with me and perform the piece.”
They all made it into the video, but nobody made it to Australia – not even Sirviö. The trip was cancelled due to financial problems.

Robert Storr is a painter, critic, curator and art historian who has been dean of the Yale School of Art since 2006. Prior to this he was professor of Modern Art at New York University’s Institute for Fine Arts and senior curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA in New York.
By Eva Stenskär

“North by New York: New Nordic Art” can be seen through August 19.
For more information: Scandinavia House, New York