“Since we started (the Abba Museum) in 2013 the most frequently asked question has been 'what happened afterwards?' after 1982 when Abba split,” says Björn Ulveaus as he opens the exhibition.
“But people here at the museum kept pestering me and said 'you should tell the whole story'. I held back but now I have succumbed,” he tells the many journalists, both Swedish and international, present.
Given the theme of the exhibition and the recent news that the legendary Swedish pop quartet have recorded new songs together, people in the room are starting to get their hopes up. When Ulvaeus announces he has invited some friends to help him cut the rope, someone cries “Benny!”.
Watch Ulvaeus talk about the story behind the new exhibition in this video:
But the Abba reunion is never mentioned during the event. Instead musical artist Peter Jöback appears on the small stage. He played a leading role in 'Kristina from Duvemåla', the 1995 musical by Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson about Swedish farmers emigrating to North America back in the 19th century.
Jöback cuts the ribbon together with Caroline Fagerlind, museum director; Ingmarie Halling, creative director at the Abba Museum, Mia Segolsson, Universal Music/General Manager Polar Music; and Ulvaeus' old friend and Abba manager Görel Hanser and the journalists are allowed to enter the exhibition area.
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Björn Ulvaeus and Peter Jöback. Photo: Micke Bayart/Azul
Before entering you pass through a room where Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund has made a short film that begins with the clips of the final days of Abba. It is followed by highlights of the years since, a tribute to Ulvaeus, Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog and their careers post-Abba.
A replica of a gate at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport is the entrance to the exhibition itself. It was through a similar gate that they made their last trip as a group. A sign reads: “Here dear visitor is where the post-Abba journey starts. The flight you're boarding will take you to London and then out into the world. You'll arrive at veritable funfair. Because that's what it turned out to be.”
After that, the exhibition opens up. A mix of stage clothes, interactive stations and the stories behind lyrics of songs written after the breakup, all neatly packaged with their own themed area.
Some of the four members' projects in the post-Abba years. Photo: Micke Bayart/Azul
Behind one curtain is an area dedicated to the 1986 musical Chess by Ulvaeus and Andersson. As part of one of the interactive experiences, visitors get to conduct the song 'One Night in Bangkok' on a big screen.
A classic Swedish dance pavilion is located in one of the corners, where visitors are encouraged to dance and enjoy themselves. On top of the wooden structure it says 'Benny Andersson's Orchestra (BAO)'. The Swedish folk music band formed in 2001 is one of Andersson's biggest projects since Abba.
Benny Andersson's Orchestra. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
The exhibition continues on with original pieces from 'Kristina from Duvemåla'.
There is also clothing worn by Lyngstad and Fältskog and miscellaneous information about the members (did you for example know that Ulvaeus earned a honorary fire chief title in 1997?).
Abba-themed musical Mamma Mia gets an interactive piece where you can paint the door on Donna's house from the movie. Chronologically we are now close to 2018. The last piece is a miniature model used to create the scene for Stockholm-based restaurant and event venue 'Mamma Mia The Party'.
Before you leave the last sign leaves you with something of a promise: “The break up was indefinite, but as always the future is just around the corner, so keep your eyes and ears open for 2019… More to come…”
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