The United States will this October be blessed with one of the most comprehensive displays of Nordic art for decades. The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., America’s first museum of modern art, will display art from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and their dependencies from the past two hundred years, representing over fifty three artists, from the founding fathers – Edvard Munch, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Anders Zorn and Aklsei Gallen-Kallela – to contemporary artists Olafur Eliasson, Ragnar Kjartansson and Katrín Sigurdardóttir. It’s the culmination of the ‘Nordic Cultural Initiative’, a scheme pioneered by the embassies of all five Nordic countries in Washington to bring recognition to Nordic artists across the USA.
The show, says Klaus Ottmann, Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs at Phillips, is a collection of the impressions he gained travelling around the Nordic region. “My selection of works and artists is personal,” Ottmann explains, “each of them has something different to offer, but they are tied together by themes that have held Nordic art in place for centuries: juxtapositions of light and darkness, inwardness, the coalescence of nature and folklore, women’s rights and social liberalism.”
Though it pays homage to the foundations of Nordic art, Nordic Impressions primarily celebrates the present – and indeed future – of Nordic art. Female artists are very much at the fore. Norwegian artists Tori Wrånes, Olga Krog and Harriet Backer are represented, so too is Swedish painter Nathalie Djurberg, Danish painter Anna Ancher, Sámi artist Outi Pieski and the Israeli-Danish painter ‘Tal R’. But perhaps most excitingly the exhibition will feature works by Hrafnhildur Arnardόttir, set to represent Iceland at next year’s Venice Biennale.
An exhibition of the contemporary works in Nordic Impressions (which includes video installations as well as paintings), Northern Exposure: Contemporary Nordic Arts Revealed, has just closed at the Nordic Museum in Seattle. Response to that exhibition was highly positive, though Washington state is home to over 700,000 Nordic immigrants, a number surpassed only in California and Minnesota. Transferring to D.C. on the other side of the country, where Nordic immigrants make up just 1.3 per cent of the population, will, therefore, be hard, as there is little existing cultural endearment. Nevertheless, though Americans may not be obsessed with ‘Nordic Noir’ like the Brits, Scandinavia is still seen as chic and cool across the Atlantic, so organisers think both tourists and D.C.’s inhabitants will be interested to explore Nordic art, a slice of art given, to date, very little exposure in America.
Nordic Impressions is at the Phillips Gallery, Washington, D.C. from 13th October 2018 to 13th January 2019.
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Tags: art, Art exhibition, nordic, nordic art
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