Gothenburg-based graffiti and mural artist Carolina Falkholt is no stranger to vaginas. Apart from presumably having one herself, they feature quite frequently in her work. A far more intricate vagina painting already adorns a Gothenburg streetscape, with ovaries to boot.
However, the placement of her latest vagina — in a school — has sparked concern that the painting's setting was inappropriate. Last week, the municipal head of children, youth and cultural affairs in Nyköping announced that local authorities had decided to paint over the artwork, which was commissioned in last autumn.
The backlash was not merciful; news that the mural was to be covered was shared extensively on social media. On Carolina Falkholt's Facebook page, her fans sent her notes of support. "Isn't art supposed to stir emotion?" wrote one, while others said her work had contributed to an important dialogue. Others questioned the sanity of those who found the mural offensive in the first place.
On the weekend, Nyköping municipality ultimately backed off, saying they were willing to first engage in a debate about whether the motif was appropriate for a junior high school (högstadiet), where the corridors are populated by 13- to 15-year-olds.
A Carolina Falkholt mural on the streets of Gothenburg.
File photo: Metro Centric/WikiMedia
On Wednesday, the school's principal added his voice to the debate, saying he would like to keep Falkholt's work. Harke Steenbergen, who will run the Tessin school when it opens after summer, said he personally liked the art and "its message".
"I see many pedagogic advantages to having her art in the school," Steenbergen said.
He got backup from a local Left Party politician, Conny Jakobsson, who is vice-chair on the culture and leisure committee in Nyköping. He told the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper that he disliked the idea of censorship.
"Should we censor this just because it depicts female genitalia?" he queried. "Maybe the students think this is a really cool thing, that they have a school that dares!"