Heed the Call – Art for All!
Discover Malmö Konstmuseum’s Collection 1960–80
13 February–15 May
Pop art, graphics, optical illusions, realism and feminist textile art are mixed when works from the collection from the 60s and 70s are exhibited.
Tell me how you look at the years around 1968 and I can tell you who you are. The years from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s was a time of great conflict, a time when ideologies were tested and debated in the shadow of a cold war. Television brought global international relations right into living rooms throughout the western world. Here in Sweden, the streets rang with chants of “Heed the call—daycare for all!” “The personal is political!” and “Whites are free to play—blacks can up and go away!” The slogans of the era may not have been entirely convincing, but they certainly were memorable.
In the art world new themes appeared, and a number of new styles and techniques were added to artists’ toolboxes. Some artists began working with film and sound. The terms performance art and happenings came into use, and many looked for new paths for distributing their work—why rely on galleries and museums when you can make your own posters, print your own graphics, and publish your own fanzines for a much broader audience?
Many have noted that the aesthetic system was shaken to its very foundations during this time. What is an image, really? How does art relate to what we usually call “reality,” and to politics? Where does a work of art begin and end? Powerful voices were raised to demand freedom of expression for women: “But can we do it, do we want it, do we dare? Yes we can, yes we will, yes we dare!” This all happened simultaneously with the continual exploration of the inherent mysteries of color and form.
Malmö Konstmuseum’s collection is a veritable goldmine in this context. It holds a unique southern-Swedish perspective on an era that has mostly been described by voices from the Stockholm or Gothenburg arts scenes. The exhibition spans a number of different media from painting, graphic design, textiles, and sculpture to objects and installations. In order to establish a context for the works and strengthen certain themes and stories, we have chosen to show the collection together with a selection of films.
Characteristic for the Malmö collection is its acquisition of artworks either the year they are created or the following year. The museum has always been extremely active on the contemporary art scene, and committed to investing in new art—not just safe bets and famous names. It turns out that many of these works have been shown rarely if ever after their acquisition.
One can see how the combined presence of the Forum School of Painting and Graphic Design and a number of local galleries have played a key role in the development of the museum’s collection. It is also clear that nowhere near as much work has been acquired from women artists as from men. This of course presents a major challenge for the museum’s work going forward.
In recent times, once a year we have been undertaking a deeper exploration of Malmö Konstmuseum’s permanent collection. In 2013 the museum’s collection of contemporary Nordic art filled the Malmö Konsthall. The following year we highlighted the Russian and Nordic artists who were featured in the Baltic Exhibition of 1914 in Malmö. In 2015 we turned our attention to the 1945 end of the Second World War and the Polish artists who came to Malmö on white buses from concentration camps.
With the exhibition Heed the Call—Art for All! we take a closer look at the museum’s collection of art from the period 1960-80, an era that continues to inspire and make a profound impact on the new generation of visual artists, musicians, writers, and others in the arts.