1. Dan Graham, Pavilion Sculpture II, 1984
Since the 1960s, Dan Graham has been famous for his pavilions made of mirrors and window glass. The structure of Pavilion Sculpture II suggests in every way that what we are looking at is a building. And yet, it is the very opposite of a building. It has no ceiling and offers no protection against the cold. It is not closed and cannot protect us against outer threats. The mirrors reflect the surroundings and confuse the eye. The boundaries between building and setting are blurred.
2. Bjørn Nørgaard, The Man on the Temple, 1980
They say that museums are the temples of the modern era. Behind Moderna Museet is another temple, smaller, and modelled on ancient Greek architecture. It was created by the Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard. If we didn’t know the scale, the stairs and columns would be imposing. On top of the temple is a … yes, what is it? A man, a maimed bronze figure, far from the ideal Greek athletic body. Bjørn Nørgaard is a provocative Nordic contemporary artist, who ceaselessly explores materials and social structures.
3. Gustav Kraitz, Close Contact, 2008
Gustav Kraitz finds his materials in the wild: clay, stone and metal. In Close Contact, the dark diabase is polished until shiny, and when it rains it turns black as coal. The shiny sections contrast sharply with the short sides, which are rough and bumpy. Things happen when you cut stone, says Kraitz. Close Contact is aligned with the quayside, where the waves gurgle constantly. It is easy to imagine how the stone has been shaped by years of softly lapping water.
4. Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 1999–2000
Behind Moderna Museet is a labyrinthine roofless brick building. Enter and experience it from inside! This is a sculpture by the Danish artist Per Kirkeby. Kirkeby’s paintings and bronze sculptures are wild and expressive, but his brick works are terse and architectonic, somewhere in between buildings and sculptures. Asked what the title of his work on Skeppsholmen was, he answered evasively that he doesn’t usually give titles to his works, but added that “The Holy Pump House” might be a suitable name.
5. Lars Englund, Instabile, 2005
Lars Englund’s rhythmic play with space, architecture and sculptural form is sometimes compared to the billowing style of the Baroque. But his art is also related to American 1960s minimalism, exploring modern materials such as rubber, steel, carbon fibre, aluminium and various kinds of plastic, in his non-figurative imagery. Lars Englund elaborates on certain recurring groups of works in his art, and the “Instabile” is one of them. Despite its sturdy anchoring in the bedrock, the sculpture performs a ceaseless dance on the spot. When the wind gets hold of its green wing, that is.
6. Christian Berg, Monumental Figure, 1927
Christian Berg studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. A visit to the pyramids in Egypt made a deep impression on him, and in Paris he encountered cubism. Monumental Figure is an abstract female torso. It was exhibited at the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, where it received harsh criticism. In the 1950s, the attitude to art had changed and Berg got consistently good reviews.
”My sculptural work is an expression of what touches and engages me, be it a strange flower or the shape of a tree, a rock or a broken shell on the beach, that I want to turn into poetry, or into a monumental figure, where the interrelated proportions seek to convey a sense of seriousness and religion.”
7. Erik Dietman, Monument to the Last Cigarette, 1975
A monument is usually erected in honour of an important person or a great event in the history of a nation. But Erik Dietman’s mighty plinth is crowned apparently by nothing. A ladder invites viewers to climb up and take a look. Please do! At the top of the ladder you will find an ashtray with a little ash inside, cast in bronze. Witticisms, linguistic or otherwise, are often as essential as the sculptural form in Erik Dietman’s oeuvre.
8. Pablo Picasso, Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1962
Déjeuner sur l’herbe was produced by the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar based on Picasso’s cardboard models. It has the same title as a famous work from 1861–63 by the French painter Édouard Manet. In the course of his career, Picasso made several works inspired by the paintings of other artists. In Manet’s painting, the men are well-dressed upper-class individuals, while the woman is naked. In Picasso’s version, the breakfast-eaters are all nude bathers without any bourgeois clothes.
9. Beth Laurin, Part 1, 1976
Beth Laurin’s sculpture is a contradictory object. It is abstract, yet familiar, and made of hard polyester in a soft bend. The dark marbled surface enhances the organic feeling. It is shiny and reflects both the sky and the surrounding branches, like a forest pond. Part 1 is a magnified detail from Tillstånd VI (Condition VI), another sculpture by Beth Laurin in the Moderna Museet collection, where the shape continues, forming an open oval with ends sculpted like faces.
10. Niki de Saint Phalle och Jean Tinguely, The Fantastic Paradise, 1966
The Fantastic Paradise, was originally created for the World Fair in Montreal in 1967. In The Fantastic Paradise Niki de Saint Phalle’s colourful, life-affirming, rotund female figures are set against Jean Tinguely’s black, jagged, rattling machines. In the warm season, the figures are set in motion, spurting water that trickles here and there. It is said that there was an orange tree in the Garden of Eden, and that is why there are orange trees in many convent gardens. Naturally, there should be one in this Paradise. Look carefully, and you will find it.
11.Alexander Calder, The Four Elements, 1961
Alexander Calder graduated in engineering but decided to be an artist when studying the stars while on a boat journey. ”The Four Elements” rotate and billow as they move. Which of the four sculptures that represent air, water, earth and fire is for the beholder to decide. A miniature model of ”The Four Elements” was made already in 1939, but a full-scale version was not built and installed on Skeppsholmen until 1961, in time for the opening of the legendary exhibition ”Movement in Art”.
12. Björn Lövin, Lenin Monument April 13th 1917, 1977
On a cold day in April 1917, Lenin stopped off in Stockholm on his way to Petrograd. In Europe, the Great War was in full swing, and there were rumours of a revolution in Russia. On a press photo documenting the visit, someone has marked Lenin with an X. He is walking along the cobbled street Vasagatan, with its tram lines. Lövin’s ”Lenin Monument” recreates both the street and the tram rails, and one of the cobblestones bears an X like the one in the press photo. This is not a monument that pays tribute to a person or deed in the way monuments often do. Instead, it is a memorial, in the true sense of the word.
13.Thomas Woodruff, Louisa, 1987
Thomas Woodruff’s oeuvre consists mainly of subtle earth sculptures, most of them on Hawaii, where he grew up. ”Louisa” is a grassy knoll, hardly noticeable if you’re not actually looking for it. Like a hidden treasure, it is available to all, but can only be experienced by those who know where to find it. It is a work in perpetual change. The hill is altered by the trampling of feet and the weight of snow in winter. The grass goes yellow and turns green again. Woodruff died in 1988, and ”Louisa” was his last work.
14. Ulrich Rückriem, Black Swedish Granite, 1981
Ulrich Rückriem is a sculptor, but he does not consider it his task to process his material. Instead, he regards the stone to be a sculpture in its own right. He uses the same processes and tools as the stone industry, where he started as an apprentice, and he stops working where most artists would begin. Every stage of the process is visible. The drill holes have not been conjured away by hammers or chisels but are readily displayed. The titles of his works – in this particular case ”Black Swedish Granite” – specify the contents. In his work, Rückriem consciously accentuates the stone’s relationship to the surrounding architecture.