Art lovers will love Stockholm! For a city its size, Stockholm is surprisingly well endowed with museums, and especially art museums. Most visitors flock to the famous Vasa Museum of course, but if you love art, you’ve come to the right place.
A trio of art museums
A few days before the TBEX conference started, I took part in an afternoon tour called “A Trio in Art” where a docent guided a small group of us around three of Stockholm’s best art museums. (This tour was customized for TBEX attendees, but you can easily visit these museums on your own.)
First up was the Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art), with its world-class collection of contemporary art from both Swedish an international artists.
Until September 11, the museum also features a special exhibition by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Her unique imagery springs from the hallucinations she has experienced since childhood and features lots of spheres and polka dots. Shown to the public for the first time, her most recent work involves a darkened room where the walls are covered in mirrors that reflect spherical rice paper lanterns slowly changing colours. It’s hard to know where the room starts and ends, and you can get selfies just by shooting in any direction!
Our second stop was Waldemarsudde on Djurgården Island, originally the home of Prince Eugen (1865-1947), and now among the most visited art museums in Sweden. Himself a painter, Prince Eugen bought this house specifically to display his art collection. It was trendy in the middle of 19th century for the wealthy to collect art. In his will, the Prince gave the property to the state, but insisted that the rooms be left exactly as they were during his life, including the exact same flowers. Since he really loved flowers, it is no surprise that a flower and sculpture garden surrounds the property.
We were caught in the rain as we came to our third and last museum: the Thiel Gallery, a magnificent mansion on the easternmost tip of Djurgården Island.
Ernest Thiel used to work as a banker, not a very artistic profession to be sure. However, after marrying his second wife, he discovered his passion for art and started collecting. His house displays Nordic and Scandinavian art from around 1900, including some paintings by Edvard Munch.
Thiel liked to collect unconventional art and socialize with the artists. He used his fortune to throw lavish parties where he invited the most renowned actors, writers, and artists of the day. Believing that art should be integrated into the living space, he told his architect: “it is to be a home with art on every wall”.
The café in this home-museum offers delicious pastries to accompany your coffee. However, due to the weather, we had to remain indoors and couldn’t enjoy them in the lush garden that overlooks the water.
There is much more…
There are many more art museums in the city, including the National Museum of Fine Arts, Sven-Harrys Art Museum, and Fotografiska, a museum devoted exclusively to photography with four large and around 20 smaller exhibitions each year. When I visited, there was a collection of Greta Garbo pictures, and Inherit the Dust, an exhibit of large scale African landscapes with an environmental theme, among others.
Most of these museums have an admission fee (around US$10-15) but are included on the Stockholm Pass, which is really good value if you’re a museum aficionado and plan to visit several museums a day.
Art in the metro
If you just want to see art for free, the Stockholm metro is called “the world’s longest art exhibition” for a reason. Ninety of the stations display art work, sculptures, and a unique architecture called “cave stations”.
From June to August, guided art tours of the metro in English start at 3:00 PM on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The tours are free of charge and you only need one valid metro ticket. You don’t have to book ahead. Just meet your guide at the SL Centre on Sergels Torg (SL is the name of the public transit company).
You could also visit on your own, using this self-guided tour of the metro stations written by a fellow blogger.
I didn’t do a tour proper, but managed to see several stations decorated with art as I travelled around the city on the clean and efficient Stockholm metro.
(Note: The Trio in Art tour was sponsored by Visit Stockholm. However all opinions and photos are my own.)