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Saving Lunds Konsthall


Originally published December 15th in Sydsvenska Dagbladet.
translated by Anders Kreuger

The hurried decision to ‘reconstruct’ Lunds konsthall and discontinue its current activities causes us worry. There is a long tradition of municipal art galleries in Sweden. Lunds konsthall, inaugurated almost 60 years ago, is one the oldest in the country.

Art in our region is dependent on many autonomous spaces: municipal galleries, museums, other players. All of these, and an active Art Academy, contribute to creating the good reputation that our region enjoys, also internationally. In this context the municipal galleries have unique possibilities to make contemporary art visible, and thereby also to be platforms for experimentation and discussion.

It is interesting to relate the decision made in Lund to the Government’s Report on Museums, published in October. It suggests new legislation to protect that the autonomous status of museums – ‘at an arm’s length’ [from political power]. Content is to be decided by professionals.

Judging from reporting in the media, the proposal to close Lunds konsthall was processed fast and without dialogue. Making decisions about permanently transforming its activities without proper discussion is unfortunate – from the point of view of both the cultural field and democracy. The City of Lund is keen to protect its reputation as a City of Ideas [the official city branding slogan], an accommodating place offering good conditions for innovation. The self-image is dominated by terms such as ‘cutting-edge competence’ and ‘international collaboration’. Are these visions to be applied only in business and research, but not in the cultural field?

We believe that the City of Lund would commit a serious error by sinking its own nationally and internationally renowned municipal art gallery. The blank space that this would create cannot be filled any time soon. Instead of discontinuing activities, there should be investments in professional development and a show of intentions to assume a more active role in the cultural life of the region.

Patrick Amsellem, Director, Museum of Sketches for Public Art, University of Lund
Ýrr Jónsdóttir, Director, Ystad Art Museum
Max Liljefors, Professor of Art History and and Visual Studies, University of Lund
Elisabeth Millqvist and Mattias Givell, Managing Directors, Wanås Konst
John Peter Nilsson, Director, Moderna Museet Malmö
Marika Reuterswärd, Director, Kristianstad konsthall
Gertrud Sandqvist, Dean, Malmö Art Academy, University of Lund
Solfrid Söderling, Professor of Museology and Dean of the Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, University of Lund
Marika Wachtmeister, Founder of Wanås Konst
Cecilia Widenheim, Director, Malmö Art Museum


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Below, find a letter from Anders Kreuger, Curator, M HKA (Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp), Exhibitions Curator at Lunds konsthall 2006–2011

Antwerp, 15 December 2015

Since its inauguration in 1957 Lunds konsthall has been a well-functioning venue for contemporary art, highly visible in Sweden and internationally, yet it is now threated with closure. The city’s politicians have called for a ‘reconstruction’. They want to ‘change and modernise activities, to suit the needs of the City of Lund today and tomorrow’. In the media, these politicians have spoken of ‘creating more interactive activities for the young’.

This is certainly not the first time Lunds konsthall is embroiled in scandal. Already the founding director, Eje Högestätt, said he needed to fight for every single exhibition. His successor, Folke Edwards, was forced to resign in 1968, after the local politicians closed the exhibition ‘Underground’ (for which Swedish artist and activist Sture Johannesson created the famous poster of a nude girl smoking something that might very well be cannabis).

For almost 60 years, the kunsthalle has been a point of contact for art and the interested public, but now this autonomous public space risks disappearing forever, if the gallery is transformed into a hub for other activities. This is the most dramatic attack against Lunds konsthall to date, but unfortunately only one of the many measures that have depleted the city’s cultural scene in the last five years.

Turning Lunds konsthall into a cultural centre, a spot for event culture, means expelling art from a beautiful space that was built to accommodate it. Contemporary art needs its own spaces for contemplation and discussion. Artists and curators continuously cross boundaries between disciplines, addressing current social and political issues. This way of working may be specific to art, but it enriches society at large – if the conditions are right.

Lund is part of a larger region, encompassing cities such as Malmö, Helsinborg, Ystad and Kristianstad in Sweden and Copenhagen and Roskilde in Denmark. This region – you may have glimpsed it on television, in popular series such as The Bridge –is home to several museums, galleries and art academies that are internationally well-known. But this cultural eco system is showing signs of stress, as regional politics is becoming ever more populist.

It is obvious that the City of Lund, as an important university city with top-notch academic research and innovative businesses, needs a wider range of cultural facilities. The fast-growing population is highly educated, and yet the cultural infrastructure does not meet current demands. Trying to squeeze all the activities considered necessary into one single institution – Lunds konsthall – is clearly not the solution.

Save Lunds konsthall as a venue for producing, exhibiting and debating challenging contemporary art! Resist the intrusion of event culture into art! Defend the kunsthalle as a credible art institution! Save the university city of Lund from erasing itself from the world map of art!

On 14 December, the Network in Support of Lunds konsthall was founded during a meeting at Skånes konstförening in Malmö. An online petition will be launched shortly. In the meantime, you can join the Facebook group ‘Stop the Closing of Lunds konsthall’. Numbers really count at this stage!

Anders Kreuger
Curator, M HKA (Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp)
Exhibitions Curator at Lunds konsthall 2006–2011