Tyra Lundgren, Self-Portrait, 1921 © Tyra Lundgren / Bildupphovsrätt 2016. Moderna Museet

The Artist

24.9 2016 – 19.2 2017

Throughout history, artists have played a wide variety of different roles. It’s a huge leap from the courtly painter who works on commission to the bohemian who refuses to rely on the approval of high society. This exhibition explores a number of different roles for artists, and also uncovers some of the myths that surround them.

How independent was the bohemian really?What kinds of new standards and rules have emerged within the avant-garde of modern art? And where did the idea of the free, creative, male genius come from? Women artists have often been portrayed as “exceptional anomalies” in the history of art, but this exhibition shows just how numerous and how influential they have been, and how in the 1870s and 80s they shook up the preconception of the artist as a role for men.

In more recent times, many artists have played the role of entrepreneur. Jeff Koons and Ernst Billgren work as modern businessmen in a commercial market economy. But the entrepreneurial artist has historical roots. Rosa Bonheur and Anders Zorn were both skilled painters as well as extremely competent when it came to building up their own personal brands, which helped them achieve great success in the international art market at the end of the nineteenth century. Entrepreneurial artists played an important role in seventeenth-century Holland as well.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was the values of the art academies of Europe that set the standard in the art world. Artists in these academies were trained in reproducing the classical ideals. Today the research conducted in university art schools is an example of a new form of academic work for artists.

This exhibition illuminates how artists relate to travel and to encounters with other cultures. In some cases an artist’s view of foreign cultures may be full of clichés and stereotypes. But there are also plenty of examples of artists who have worked to expose underlying power structures and standards in their encounters with other cultures.

Many artists throughout history have seen themselves as visionaries or prophets. Feminist artists such as Siri Derkert and Gittan Jönsson have worked both with criticism of contemporary society and with politically charged visions of the future. Other artists have been preoccupied with visions of a more spiritual nature, including Hilma af Klint and Vassilij Kandinskij.


Untitled Film Still #56
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #56, 1980 © Cindy Sherman Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. Photo: Åsa Lundén/Moderna Museet
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Self-Portrait, 1630 © Nationalmuseum
Vibeke Tandberg, #2 From the Series Aftermath, 1994 Vibeke Tandberg/Bildupphovsrätt 2016. Photo: Åsa Lundén/Moderna Museet Bildupphovsrätt 2017
Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-portrait with Palette, 1937 © Helene Schjerfbeck/Bildupphovsrätt 2016. Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet