Gimme Shelter: Vårsalongen At Liljevalchs Konsthall

Photo: Mattias Lindbäck

Spare a thought for the homeless during the colder months. Liljevalchs Konsthall are still refurbishing and one of the most classic exhibitions in Stockholm’s art calendar was forced to wander the streets before finding shelter in Urban Escape next to Gallerian. Apart from some distress, what that has actually meant for the Vårsalongen exhibition (The Spring Salon) is a greater number of visitors. We cornered Liljevalch’s creative director and head honcho Mårten Castenfors to hear about this year’s edition.

Once again you are doing Vårsalongen in a city centre location, what has that meant for this classic annual exhibition?

A new venue always translates into new challenges. You are not familiar with the walls and it’s a challenge for our staff when we’re not at home. But at the same time, we have found a new audience. It’s only 20kr to get in and we’re in the middle of town so there are a lot of people who drop in. That’s a positive of course.
We have 80,000 visitors now – when we are out at Djurgården we rarely get any people who spontaneously drop in, but now you might be shopping in Gallerian and swing by the exhibition at the same time. Hopefully they will all feel the energy and come back.

Tell me a bit about this year’s instalment.

The jury was very good. It was Ernst Billgren, Charlotte Gyllenhammar and Magnus Uggla. Magnus views a lot of art, he was the trained eye when it comes to viewing art, while Ernst and Charlotte are artists. They were all in agreement to an incredible degree and have managed to create that desirable mix. I think it feels cohesive, even if there are a couple of things that pull in an opposite direction. A lot of people say paintings are dead but there are a lot of paintings involved this year. We might not have that much photo art, but there’s a lot of textiles.
And as for the participants there we have everything from a 92-year-old lady from Skåne to an art professor. Everything from really established artists to complete amateurs. The mix is what’s so great about Vårsalongen. It’s where the professionals and the amateurs meet under the same roof.

Could you give me your current view on Stockholm’s art and gallery scene? What do you see as its pros and cons?

It’s fairly rich in its selection. You can find good art at most galleries, there are highs and there are lows. But, and this is without actually knowing whether it’s true, it feels like many have trouble making ends meet. People who buy art might not buy it through the art galleries to the same extent as before. A lot of people buy through the auction houses. The advantage for the galleries are that they introduce new artists. But as soon as they make it they pop up at the auction houses. And that’s when the galleries have done all the work.
But Stockholm is very rich when it comes to museums and galleries. We’re a very good art city.

For 2017, what do you think are the new trends, important event and interesting names to look out for?

Since I’m in the art business I think it’s real interesting with what will happen at Bonniers Konsthall. And it’s exciting to see what Magasin 3 will come up with after they have evaluated their operation.
I think it’s difficult to say anything about trends but I look forward to seeing Marie-Louise Ekman exhibit at Moderna. And personally it’s interesting to see what I can come up with without having my own venue. I have to do a great summer exhibition. In any case there will be an extremely interesting 2018 at the new Liljevalchs. We usually have 150,000 visitors but I’m confident in having 250,000 as we have three barnstorming exhibitions lined up.

Liljevalchs Vårsalongen 2017, Malmskillnadsgatan 32, Jan 11 – Mar 5

Words: Peter Steen-Christensen