Cheap and chilled, qualities popular with creative types, artists have long flocked to Malmö for its affordable studio space but stayed to be part of the tight-knit community.
“In the past few years, lots of creative people have been moving here,” says artist Carl Lindh, who runs Signal, a non-profit centre for contemporary art in Malmö. “Fine artists but also musicians and other people involved with the art and culture scenes. It’s made it a very interesting time.”
Carl, who hails from Hässleholm some 100km north of Malmö, first moved to the city in 1999 to study at its prestigious Art Academy. After stints in Edinburgh and Leeds in the UK, he found himself drawn back to Malmö where he has lived since 2008.
Photo: Artist and curator Carl Lindh. Credit: Kota Sake
“Malmö is the only city in Sweden where I can see myself living and working as an artist. I still feel it is the most interesting city in Sweden. The population is very diverse and there's more of a DIY attitude among artists. They think 'Let's do something instead of waiting for something to happen'”, says Carl.
The influx of artists from all disciplines has morphed Malmö into a creative melting pot, adding another layer to its long-established institutional scene.
“There’s Malmö Konsthall, the Konstmuseum and Moderna Museet i Malmö, so three big institutions in a small city which adds to the general climate,” describes Carl. “There are also very good collective workshops or places where you can work with very specific techniques and equipment, for example, KKV Monumental, Mediaverkstaden and Inter Art Center.”
Photo: Miriam Preis/imagebank.sweden.se
He adds that the prevalence of creatives in the city has led to the birth of many small artist-run spaces and independent galleries, such as KRETS, an art gallery and project space, Skånes Konstförening, an arts complex in an old mill, and Alta Art Space, a non-commercial artist-run exhibition space, cultural platform and studio collective.
Another of those spaces is Signal which was formed by a group of five artists in 1998. Today it is run by Carl, Elena Tzotzi and Joel Odebrant.
“The founders wanted to create a space where they could work with and present artists they found interesting. The people running Signal have changed organically but the whole thing is that we want it to be a place where artists can push their practice a little bit further.”
Installation view from Signal's current exhibition Love comes first. Photographer Lotten Pålsson
The exhibitions are often accompanied by a programme of complementing events including film screenings, discussions and other connecting activities. For example, ‘Digital Distress – Consumed by Infinity’, an exhibition which ended in March, was supported by a series of lectures related to the topic of digitalisation.
“We try to do as much as we can to create an interesting scene in Malmö,” says Carl. “The whole idea is that we want a place where we can collaborate and support artists to develop their work in a different way.”
‘Prepare to be surprised’
Like Carl, Mary Toreld is a Malmö-based artist wise to the advantages of collaboration. She is also aware that the life of an artist isn’t always exhibitions and opening nights.
Photo: Mary Toreld
“It’s a tough business and everyone is trying to survive. I felt I had to either quit the business or try to improve the work situation and conditions for artists. I went with the latter option,” she tells The Local.
Mary knew that in order to do this she’d need a base where she could bring artists together. In 2014, she found an old industry building, which she admits was out of her budget at the time, but decided to take a leap of faith.
“I took it anyway and decided to start a place where I could develop exhibition concepts to work on how we communicate art.”
That place became FRANK Gallery & Studios, a creative space with a gallery for exhibitions and workspaces for 20 professional artists from different disciplines.
“FRANK is very experimental, that’s our profile. We support all kinds of artists, they don’t need to be artists in the traditional sense. For example, we have a potter and a tattoo artist here at the moment.”
Photo: FRANK Gallery
Mary explains that while the tenants aren’t required to collaborate, they do from time to time and the result is often a unique combination of two seemingly disparate disciplines. For example, she recalls one set of tenants who work with sound collaborating with a fellow tenant who is a textile designer to create soundtracks to her patterns.
“It’s a good mix. Malmö is the perfect place for trying things out and letting them grow a little bit. You get the chance to see if it works or not,” says Mary.
As for the gallery itself, Mary says it’s equally as avant-garde.
“Prepare to be surprised! It’s a bit weird — you have to go through a garage entrance then five metres in front of you is a glass door. The gallery has a very high ceiling and whatever happens inside is experimental. It might not be obvious why but it’s always something new.”
She recalls an exhibition in FRANK’s opening year in which she sterilised the entire gallery, asked visitors to wash their hands, and then allowed them to touch all the art.
Photo: FRANK Gallery
“I was talking to people to figure out if this was bringing them closer to feeling something. Art is about feelings,” she says.
Although originally from north of Gothenburg, Mary feels like she’s found her place in Malmö. She’s free to fulfill her ambition with FRANK and is surrounded by other like-minded creatives keen to experiment and find new techniques.
“Malmö is the first place that’s ever felt like home to me. It doesn’t matter who you are here and you can be whoever you want.”
Find out more about what's on at FRANK on its Facebook page.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Malmö stad.