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Pontus Hultén in the exhibition Önskemuseet, Moderna Museet

Pontus Hultén in the exhibition Önskemuseet, Moderna Museet, 1963 Photo: Anders Engman

Pontus Hultén and Moderna Museet

Research and learning based on an art collection, an archive and a collection of books.

Pontus Hultén (1924–2006) and his activities have attracted a markedly increased interest in recent years. Research in the fields of exhibition history and curatorial practices is growing internationally. Moderna Museet is receiving more and more requests from scholars in Sweden and abroad regarding Pontus Hultén and the first ten years of the Museum’s history.

Research objectives

Since September 2015, we have engaged in the research project Pontus Hultén and Moderna Museet – research and learning based on an art collection, an archive and a library. The objective of the project is to perform an inventory and to process material in the Museum’s archives and collection with links to Pontus Hultén, and to explore the legacy of the legendary 1960s and its implications for the Museum today. By letting researchers analyse this material, we can deepen and expand our understanding of the period. The project is a continuation of the long-term initiative for research on Moderna Museet’s collection and history, and to present the results to the Museum’s large audience in exhibitions, catalogues, articles, symposiums and various events.

Pontus Hultén in Paris
Pontus Hultén in Paris, 1954 Photo: Lennart Olson © Hallands Konstmuseum
Pontus Hultén och Claes Oldenburg på Moderna Museet
Pontus Hultén and Claes Oldenburg at Moderna Museet, 1966 Photo: Hans Hammarskiöld

Who was Pontus Hultén?

Pontus Hultén was the director of Moderna Museet from 1958 to 1973. During his time at the Museum, he built the collection and the Museum’s international reputation, with exhibitions such as Movement in Art (1961), 4 Americans (1962), The Museum of Our Wishes (1963-64), and Andy Warhol (1968). In his will in 2005, he bequeathed his art collection (some 800 works), his library (some 7,000 volumes), and his archive to Moderna Museet.

The two-year research project ends in autumn 2017

The project is estimated to last for two years, until autumn 2017. During the first six months, the focus was on making an inventory of the archive and library, but by spring 2016 the first articles were being written. In other words, we are engaged simultaneously in collecting material, reviewing it, and performing inventories and analysing the archive.

Research results in a series of books and a presentation in the Study Gallery

The results will be published in a series of richly-illustrated books in Swedish and English. The first of these is scheduled to be published in late autumn 2016; in addition to a preface by Daniel Birnbaum, it will contain four or five essays by project participants and two guest researchers.

We are also engaged in producing material from the large archive, to be presented in display cases in the Pontus Hultén Study Gallery on floor 2 in the Museum. The idea is that the Study Gallery will be further highlighted as a place for research and reflection on the Museum’s exhibitions, activities and history. The research results will also be made accessible to the public in the form of open lectures in association with the Friends of Moderna Museet.

She – A Cathedral, Moderna Museet
She – A Cathedral, Moderna Museet, 1966 Photo: Hans Hammarskiöld © Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, Per Olof Ultvedt / Bildupphovsrätt 2017

Partnership with the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

In conjunction with this project, we have launched a closer collaboration with Margriet Schavemaker, curator and manager of education, interpretation and publication, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, one of our partner museums in Europe. We will organise a joint symposium in early 2017 in Amsterdam under the heading of Lose Yourself! A Symposium on Labyrinthian Exhibitions as Curatorial Model. The symposium will be based on the exhibitions Dylaby (Stedelijk Museum, 1962), and SHE (Moderna Museet, 1966), and the contacts between the respective museum directors at the time, Pontus Hultén and Willem Sandberg. It is organised by the Stedelijk Museum, the Tinguely Museum in Basel, the Free University Amsterdam, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Alongside the symposium, a retrospective exhibition of Jean Tinguely will be shown.

The project participants

The project is financed by the Swedish Arts Council’s funding for research on Central Museums. The research team includes in-house researchers Annika Gunnarsson (curator of prints and drawings), Ylva Hillström (curator, learning), and Anna Tellgren (curator of photography and research manager). The external researcher Anna Lundström, Stockholm University, works part-time on the project, and her assignment includes heading the process of assembling material from the archive for presentations in the Study Gallery. Meetings are also attended by Susana Mendoza Brackenhoff, registrar and archive manager at Moderna Museet. We have an archive assistant, Linda Andersson, who is engaged in making an inventory of the library.

Published 22 April 2016 · Updated 31 January 2017