Nordic News Weekly – February 15th

Record visitor numbers leads to economic crisis at the Swedish National Museum and The World’s Northernmost Chinatown opens in Kirkenes.

Taibola, Chinese portal, 2019. Photo: Aleksandr Alekseev.

The World’s Northernmost Chinatown is a platform with an invitation to participate. Its existence relies on cooperation, not isolation,” said Artistic Director Helle Siljeholm, at the inauguration of the fifteenth instalment of the cultural festival, Barents Spektakel in Kirkenes on 13 February. As always, the festival, which promotes itself as “Norway’s most border-crossing festival,” deals with the geopolitical situation of the Barents region, this time focusing on the role of China in the future of the Arctic. During the opening night, people of all ages gathered in streets filled with Chinese decorations to see the opening show and the festival exhibition, starting at a Chinese portal made by the Russian artist group Taibola, and ending in the exhibition space Terminal B, which is run by Pikene på broen, the curatorial team behind Barents Spektakel. Among the artists in the exhibition is Sami artist and activist Máret Anne Sara, who is participating with her first sound work, made in collaboration with artist and composer Elin Már Øyen Vister. “Our spiritual history can’t really be colonised, whatever physical changes the landscape goes through,” Sara said when presenting the work. Read the story in Norwegian here

The Swedish National Museum. Interior. Photo: Anna Danielsson.

Record visitor numbers leads to economic crisis

After its renovation, the Swedish National Museum has been a huge success, drawing a record number 311,000 visitors from the reopening on 13 October to 31 December 2018. If the popularity continues, the museum estimates a total of 1,8 million visitors in 2019, which by far exceeds expectations. The museum now fears an economic crisis, as the increase in visitors also increases the museum’s expenses related to wear and tear, cleaning, personnel, and security. “It’s a very peculiar situation. Of course, we are delighted by receiving such a large number of visitors, and we do our very best to manage it. But at the same time, we have problems with the increase in our expenses,” said Director Susanna Pettersson to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. In a letter to the Swedish government, the museum points to two possible solutions: reintroducing entrance fees, starting in April, or a yearly compensation of 60 million SEK (6 million EUR). Minister of Culture Amanda Lind from the Green Party, said to the Swedish broadcaster SVT that there is now a constructive dialogue between the National Museum and the Department of Culture regarding the issue. 

The National Museum of Norway increases its acquisitions budget

For years, the National Museum of Norway has been facing criticism for not acquiring a sufficient number of works by younger, Norwegian artists. This situation was addressed earlier this week, when the museum announced that it will increase its budget for purchasing contemporary art by 2 million NOK (200,000 EUR) annually over three years. The total increase of 6 million NOK (600,000 EUR) is granted by the Savings Bank Foundation DNB (Sparebankstiftelsen DNB). Following the initial three years, the project will be evaluated and possibly continued. “The National Museum wishes to build a solid collection of young Norwegian contemporary art for the new National Museum which opens in 2020, and it’s fantastic that the Savings Bank Foundation DNBwants to join us in an ambitious prioritisation of the young Norwegian art scene,” Karin Hindsbo, director of the National Museum, said in a press release.

Ann Lislegaard, art work for Humanistiska teatern, built by Akademiska Hus. Photo: Ricard Estay.

More public art on Swedish campuses

Beginning in 2019, the state-owned real-estate company Akademiska Hus will annually invest at least 10 million SEK (1 million EUR) in art at Sweden’s colleges and universities. In doing so, Akademiska Hus will be the first government-owned real-estate company to implement the new policy for architecture, form, and design adopted by the Riksdag in 2018. The initiative is part of a collaboration with Public Art Agency Sweden, the institution that has the remit of partnering with state property managers to establish procedures for allocating to art and design up to one per cent of the budget of all new government construction, redevelopment, and extension projects. “Together with Public Art Agency Sweden we will now integrate the artistic vision in our early stages when developing a campus or individual buildings,” said Catarina Fritz, chief financial officer and vice president of Akademiska Hus in a press statement. “By involving artists and curators right from the start, we pave the way for unexpected approaches and solutions to how environments can be developed. With more art on campus, we want to inspire everyone who spends time there to new perspectives and ideas.”