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Moderna Museet: Malmö art scene's new dawn

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Moderna Museet: Malmö art scene's new dawn
Photo: Robert La Bua
14:25 CEST+02:00
Moderna Museet Malmö has been open since the end of 2009 and Robert La Bua has found that it is exactly what the city needs to boost its art scene with an institution of international standing serving the community.

Malmö Konsthall must be jumping for joy. Long a favourite artspace in the city, the lovely Konsthall, forlorn in its lonely role as Malmö's only major venue dedicated full time to contemporary art exhibits, finally has a playmate.

After the opening of Moderna Museet Stockholm's Malmö branch in December 2009, Sweden's third city became doubly endowed with places where art and people can interact in an innovative contemporary fashion.

Moderna Museet is located in a former electrical station which, for many years after its decommissioning, was the home of the Rooseum, Moderna Museet's laudable predecessor and karmic influence.

The museum is more than a simple agglomeration of static artworks, with plans for presentation of three major exhibits each year plus a range of appealing activities and events.

One of the exhibits has been entitled Zon Moderna, a cooperative effort of twelve high-school students from several schools in Skåne to create art and push their creativity to a higher level of achievement.

Zon Moderna is no one-day outing to paint landscapes in the park; the students work together over a period of several months to deepen their understanding of the artistic process. Or perhaps they just like to splash paint around; either way, the result is impressive and can be experienced in the Workshop area of the museum, where some of the original power-station equipment remains.

The power station, originally built in 1901, has been transformed by the firm Tham & Videgård Arkitekter into a flowing exhibition space of more than 800 square metres on two levels. The outdoor patio, just finished a few weeks ago in time for summer, is a perfect place to enjoy an outdoor lunch in a traffic-free square.

The museum opened its doors on 26 December 2009; a new extension, sheathed on one side in bright orange, became a landmark as soon as it was unveiled and somehow manages to complement the sturdy design elements of the original building without interfering in their aesthetic appeal - no easy feat when orange is involved.

Unusually, Moderna Museet's Malmö branch is the result of a collaboration between three political entities: the City of Malmö, Region Skåne, and the Swedish government. The museum's opening and successful incorporation into Malmö's art scene is a testament to the cooperation, in which the parties recognised the importance of their joint effort.

Moderna Museet Malmö has been well received by the paying public with visitor figures beyond pre-opening projections, perhaps thanks to a range of exhibits that are interesting without being haughty.

One of the exhibits features a collection of magazine pages displaying almost the entire oeuvre of famed American photographer Diane Arbus, intriguing as much for the fact that its owner made a point of collecting magazines specifically for their Arbus content as for the impact of the photographs themselves.

Pierre Leguillon Presents Diane Arbus: A Print Retrospective, 1960-71 runs only until August 1st and on a free day in July is well worth seeing and to witness her imagery as the public did, on magazine pages, rather than removed from their original context.

Despite her worldwide celebrity, Diane Arbus produced comparatively few photographs compared to the abundant output of today's prolific artists such as David LaChappelle and Annie Leibovitz, whose portrait of babyfaced American television reporter Anderson Cooper is paired with Arbus' portrait of Cooper as a baby.

If you miss the Arbus exhibit, take solace in the Spectacular Times exhibit, equally insightful, which runs until February 2011. Selected examples of Sixties art, from Andy Warhol's famed black and white images of Marilyn Monroe to an Yves Klein bluejob, represent many major names with pieces evocative of their famously unique styles.

One of the most valuable works in the entire museum is the work of Moderna Museet Malmö's Art Director, Magnus Jensner. Immediately noticeable upon meeting him is his calm demeanour and evenness in speech; it came as no surprise, then, to learn that this soft-spoken, eloquent man had earned a Master's degree in Philosophy from Philadelphia's Temple University.

While a degree such as this is a somewhat surprising credential for someone who runs a major art museum, it should be noted that the affable Mr Jensner has studied art as well and has extensive experience in museum management. He worked in this very building when the Rooseum was housed here, and moved on to the Kim Utzon-designed Henry Dunker Culture Centre in Helsingborg before returning to the city of his youth.

Moderna Museet is located on the eastern side of Malmö—on Östergatan—away from the city's other art museums. This mean that it is also away from most of the nicer hotels, but the nearby Radisson Blu, which incorporates one of the city's oldest structures into its space - a historic brick and timber house built in 1558 - is a good base.

Moderna Museet is not the only cultural asset in Malmö within close distance to the Radisson Blu; the Red Cross' Humanitetens Museum is half a block away on Drottningtorget, which also happens to be the home of Dolce Sicilia, Malmö's most authentic gelateria which could be argued to create an art of its own with a seductive array of classic and unusual flavours.

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