Text by Bethany Rex
Celebrating Swedish Art History in the 1990s, Moderna Museet, Stockholm unveils their new exhibition Moment-Ynglingagatan 1. The non-commercial gallery Ynglingagatan 1 was a vital forum for Swedish contemporary art in the 1990s, featuring international artists such as Pierre Huyghe, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Takashi Murakami and M/M (Paris), decades before their work were recognised by critics and major institutions all over the world.
With modest means and fuelled by a feeling of exasperation with the existing art scene, Ynglingagatan 1 took matters in their own hands in autumn 1993 with their first exhibition which was Bjarne Melgaard. The focus on relational aesthetics, multi-disciplinary art, design and fashion, and a distinctly international profile helped to set Ynglingagatan 1 apart from other galleries and art institutions in Stockholm. Ynglingagatan 1 was also a launching pad for the careers of a group of Swedish artists, including Karl Holmqvist, Ann-Sofie Back, Peter Geschwind and Johanna Biling.
This exhibition, which opens tomorrow, is a retrospective presentation of works from the gallery’s programme, in chronological order. It attempts, as far as possible, to feature the works that were exhibited at the gallery, comparable works from the time, or documentations of exhibitions and projects. With its ambition to emphatically focus on the 1990s, a programme of events, debates and lecturers that will reflect the thoughts and ideas that were circulating at the time when the gallery was open.
Thomas Ekström is the co-founder of Ynglingagatan 1 and also curator of this exhibition. Here we discuss the impelling force behind the project, his vision to create an alternative art scene, and the stand-out pieces from the show.
What was the inspiration behind this new exhibition, Moment – Ynglingagatan 1?
I don’t know if inspiration is the right word, Ynglingagatan was an alternative space that existed between 1993-1999 in Stockholm. From the start in 1993 when we were four friends managing the gallery the community around Ynglingagatan grew and in the end we where around 20 people managing three gallery rooms, a design shop, a film club and a café. We had events, design lectures and at some point Jarvis Cocker from Pulp did a DJ set. This exhibition is more of a representation of what we achieved in that time and what we got up to in the 1990s.
As co-founder of Ynglingagatan 1 and curator of this exhibition, why do you think artists such as Takashi Murakami and M/M Paris were so attracted to the gallery, and the location itself?
I think you might have to go back in time to really appreciate the reasons why the gallery was such as success. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact set of rules and reasons but I can think of a few contributing factors. For example, we housed Takashi’s first solo exhibition outside Japan and when it comes to Michael and Mathias of MM Paris they were more or less designing theatre posters at the time. But in a broader perspective we always gave 100% to artists that we liked as people. Word got out, and other artists and designs began to flock to the gallery. We also had a much broader view on art that included fashion and graphic design for example, that was not really common at the time.
When you founded the gallery in the autumn on 1993 the space was only 16 m2. It must have been a constricted exhibition space for artists such as Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley and Larry Clark. Before you moved to your larger space, how did you overcome these spatial constraints?
I think it is a common misunderstanding that works of art have to be big or valuable to be interesting or important. Nothing can be more incorrect, but yes we had to cancel Rudolf Stingel because the gallery was too small. In Larry Clark’s case the Moderna Museet has a very nice collection of works, so we can actually show more now than we originally did at the gallery and Jessica Diamond’s wall painting will be quite a lot bigger than it was back in 1993.
Could you talk us through some of the most important works in the exhibition?
It is a pretty complete set of the best from the 1990s, just look at the artist list. Then we’ve got the historical depth to the 1960s and 70s in form of artists such as Peter Saul, Chris Burden and Sister Corita. But of course I am honoured to show works like Carsten Höllers Killing Children (1992), Dominique Gonzalez-Foresters Parc Central (2006), work by Pierre Huyghe and Swetlana Heger, early collages by Richard Hawkins or the complete run of Ed Ruscha´s books.
And do you have your personal favourites?
Well it is hard to choose one or two pieces from a bunch of your favourite works by a great generation of artists. But in my current state of mind, a stressed out curator, two days before the exhibition opens, with some works still not in the museum, two particular works come to mind. Cary S. Leibowitz or Candy Ass’ painting If I ever have an out of body experience I hope I stay there and Tom Marionis conceptual work from 1970, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, which is a subject close to my heart right now!
Finally, what impact would you say Ynglingagatan 1 has had on contemporary art history in Sweden? I know it is hard to be objective on this one!
As you say it’s hard to be objective, but I think it is the only gallery that ever will be honoured with a museum exhibition so take from that what you will!
Moment – Ynglingagatan 1, 25/11/2011 – 22/01/2012, Moderna Museet, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm. +46 8 5195 5289. www.modernamuseet.se
1. Tom Marion The Act of Drinking Beer Is The Highest Form of Art.
Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1999 © Tom Marion.
The artwork was performed for the first time in the U.S. in 1970
2. Takashi Murakami Mr Dob.
Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1995 © Takashi Murakami
3. Cary S. Leibowitz aka Candyass Fair/Unfair, 1993
4. M/M Paris Theatre posters.
Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1999 © M/M Paris
5. Carsten Höller Killing Children III. Installation view from Galleri Ynglingagatan 1, 1994
© Carsten Höller
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