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Andrea Kollnitz

Abstract

The Stockholm Exhibition in 1930 has been seen as marking the breakthrough of functionalism and modernism in Sweden. It was a representative manifestation of innovative Swedish architecture and interior design as well as a programmatic attempt to establish a social democratic, politically conscious new aesthetics with the aim of improving everyday life in Sweden for every class. Asking in what ways the Stockholm Exhibition can be perceived as an avant-garde event, this essay investigates the exhibition’s programme in relation to its national and international reception. While initiated and first received in a spirit of revolutionary aesthetics and social change, the exhibition and its ideas were later pacified and socialised as part of the emerging Swedish welfare system and its national agendas.

Series:

Andrea Kollnitz

Abstract

At the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, the internationally active artist Otto G. Carlsund organised an avant-garde exhibition of so-called art concret that has historically been regarded as a fiasco because of its mainly negative reception by the Swedish critics and public. This essay investigates Carlsund’s role as a universalist abstract artist trying to educate and confront a more moderate Swedish art world with international avant-garde art developments and their theoretical manifestos. It discusses notions of the messianic and prophetic artist’s role in a national context as well as the problematic of transnationally working avant-garde artists’ impact on and conflict with national cultures. Finally, it interprets the mainly hostile Swedish reception given to Carlsund’s exhibition as based partly on nationalist agendas preferring figurative art to the universalist “emptiness” of abstraction.