An interview with John Peter Nilsson

    Written by Mari Florer

    Nils Dardel – in the heart of Moderna Museet

    For one year, John Peter Nilsson has been preparing the exhibition “Nils Dardel and the Modern Age” currently showing at the Stockholms Museum Of Modern Art, Moderna Museet.
    – Nils Dardel (1888-1943) is highly relevant today because of the male narcissism and metro sexuality in contemporary society – the hipster as a dandy says the curator.

    This is Moderna Museet’s second exhibition of the artist. When Dardel’s work was shown in Stockholm in 1988, at the height of the yuppie era, the zeitgeist was quite different.

    Gender studies was not as developed then as it is today. Today we can discuss how his ambivalent sexuality actually shines through in his work. And if we go back to Dardel’s own time, that subject was an absolute taboo says John Peter Nilsson.

    Homosexual relationships were criminalized in Sweden until 1944. Nils Dardel himself was in a marriage and had a daughter, all while having relationships with other men.

    On a superelliptic table in a conference room in the basement of the museum, John Peter Nilsson shows me a map of the premises. He waves his pen in the air when he talks about the exhibition, pointing his pen to the map and explaining details of the display. His passion for the subject is apparent and he truly loves to talk about Dardel. Doubtless, he could talk for hours - and I would be very happy to be the audience.

    Still, Nilsson is a busy man full of restless energy with a myriad of things to take care of before the vernissage. In addition to being curator for the Dardel exhibition he is also the director of Moderna Museet’s subsidiary in Malmö.

    He describes the big entry. An 80 square meter wall painted black introduces the exhibition with the scenography from Maison du Fous (Asylum) that Dardel did for the Swedish Ballet, in Paris in 1920.

    The observer will meet total darkness, which is meant to allude to the artist’s more neurotic sides he says.

    In the maze-like corridors underground we walk in the direction of what John Peter Nilsson describes as the heart of Moderna Museet. Nilsson is a tall man and his long legs keep moving at a steady pace, his hands behind his back, upper body tilting slightly forward. It’s hard to keep up.

    Along the walls there are cabinets and doors, all in metal. On one of the heavy steel doors there is a yellow and black sign, “Beware of the packing officer” it reads. Nilsson is trying to open the door, but fails. We are looking for someone with the right keycard – maybe the “packing officer” that we are supposed to be wary of?

    We walk round and round, back and forth in the labyrinthine corridors. Everywhere it looks the same. Could he be doing this for security reasons? Maybe he wants me to get lost.

    The Moderna Museet has previously been robbed of several works of art including Matisse, Picasso and Braque, together worth over half a billion.

    We stop at some kind of junction in the dark basement.
    There she is. Our “packing officer” he shouts, hearty and loud so she can hear us coming up behind her.

    Tova Bjurström turns around, looking at us curiously. She unlocks the door and we enter her enormous office. We stand in a big basement inventory with sliding doors made of a metal grid. The floor is strewn with a lot of wooden boxes marked “FRAGILE” written in red. Each box is also marked with a specific number, which is forbidden to photograph.

    The air is damp. Bjurström tells me it’s because the paintings must adapt to a correct temperature before being unpacked.

    It takes time to gather all the works and build an exhibition. There are many people involved in the process. It is fortunate for us that Moderna Museet has such a good reputation among museums worldwide. It makes it easier for us to borrow art, Nilsson says.

    Most of the time there is no problem borrowing paintings. But occasionally Nilsson needs to write a kind of an “extortion letter” to some museum directors reminding them that they in their turn have borrowed art from Moderna museet.

    Among the priceless art treasures in Bjurström’s office there is portrait of Dardel painted by Iwan Constantin in 1910. Looking at Constantin’s work and comparing it to Dardel’s self-portrait from 1923 he looks much younger in the later one. The first one much more realistic in style. Of course this may have something to do with the artist being vain but it was also a common feature in Dardel’s style of painting.

    Dardel was a popular portrait painter. He got a lot of work for the rich and wealthy and he portrayed them as they wanted to look, not primarily how they really appeared. Obviously, it was equally important to paint himself young and fresh.

    I have found out that Dardel’s most expensive painting The Waterfall (sold for $3.7 million in 2012, the highest sum paid for a Swedish modernist art work) is borrowed for the exhibition.

    Where’s “The Waterfall” now? I ask.
    It has not arrived yet. It travels with a courier and we do not know where the painting is until minutes before it arrives. None of us know who the owner is. It’s top secret Nilsson says.

    The Moderna Museet has borrowed the painting through the auction house Bukowskis. John Peter Nilsson has tried to figure out who the owner of the painting is but it turned out his guesswork was all wrong.

    Do you want to see “The Dying Dandy”? he asks.

    We follow Bjurström, dressed in thin white cotton gloves, blue jeans, and a large oblique mint green shirt striped in black. Slowly she pulls out the painting that gained iconic status in the yuppie era of the 1980’s. Looking at it makes me think: is it the subject of the story, the colors, or the knowledge of its value that is hitting me with such force? Would any valuable painting whatsoever leave me equally impressed?

    There is something special about Dardel that catches my eye. I believe it is the motif, the deep blue, green and red colors and my love of the naivistic manner. And maybe I recognize myself in the Dying Dandy’s self-pitying and exaltation of his own importance, lying in his green velvet suit with a mirror in his right hand. The dandy’s left hand resting on his heart. Three women take care of him and with Dardel himself again in the background mourning. Why is he mourning? Love? Death?

    I think it was the painting’s motif - that everything could end any second - that attracted a new generation of yuppies in the 80s. I assume that they did not quite believe in themselves. All of a sudden they had earned themselves an exceedingly amount of money, Nilsson says.

    Most of the paintings are inspired by events in Nils Dardel’s life.

    – The stories became a documentation of his everyday life.

    Art critics around the 1910s were not particularly fond of Nils Dardel at the beginning of his career. Partly because of the artist’s personality: his modern lifestyle and free approach to relationships - but also because of his artistic manner and choice of motives.

    – Dardel was a contemporary artist, but he was not a modernist in the sense that he was trying to convey a new artistic language. The critics found it difficult to place him in the spirit that prevailed. It was when he developed his style further that his art became more recognized.

    We look around at the paintings. In several of them there are parallel stories, as in a theater. There are a lot of symbols and he often works with contrasts in sizes. One painting truly stands out in the office. A picture of native’s heads hanging tied in the hair.

    Dardel was a provocateur. He grew up in an aristocratic environment but he mocked the upper class in many ways. He removed the aristocratic prefix from his surname and he admired Oscar Wilde’s thoughts that anyone can become a dandy regardless of background. Although Dardel partially disassociated from the class-society and made fun of the upper class, it still didn’t make him popular among the working class either.

    Is it stressful to be museum director and at the same time plan an exhibition like this? I ask.

    – There is a lot to do and I need to travel a lot. But I have huge machinery behind me to help me with the practical stuff.
    He thinks it’s incredibly fun to do this Dardel exhibition. A true dream job.

    At the moment, he is trying to find something sensational which can attract visitors to the inauguration.
    – I hope that Nina Lagergren (Raoul Wallenberg’s sister and Nils Dardel’s niece) will bring the hand mirror the dying dandy is holding in painting.

    The curator wants to attract both old and new visitors to the exhibition.
    – Not everyone is enthusiastic when it comes to looking at old art with new perspectives. There is a conservative audience who wants to interpret the artist in the context when he was active, he says.

    John Peter Nilsson is looking forward to the opening.
    Do you know where I can find a green velvet suit in my size? he asks, with a big smile on his face. I’ve been looking everywhere but still haven’t found it yet. Please let me know if you find one.

    The “Packing Officer” Tova Bjurström
    John Peter Nilsson and our Features Editor Marie Brunnberg talks about the artist’s life
    Portrait of Dardel painted by Iwan Constantin, 1910
    John Peter Nilsson with Nils Dardels palette in his hands
    Two weeks before the exhibition opening at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm
    Nils Dardel, “The Girl with the torch and a burning heart”, 1931
    Two weeks before the exhibition opening at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm
    In the heart of the Moderna Museet: Nils Dardel, “The Dying Dandy”, 1918
  • photography by SANDRA MYRHBERG
    hair & make up CARINA FINNSTRÖM
    Mikas Looks
    rings BACK
    headpiece MARIA NILSDOTTER

    An interview with Adele Kosman & Marcus Borrman

    Written by Jenny Lacis by Jenny Lacis

    Visual, Vast and Variable - For BDK is more than music

    Dreamlike but determined. Tough but emotional. For BDK is balancing their music on a thin line, but still standing firm. We meet Adele Kosman and Marcus Borrman to talk about their soon to be released debut album; how they got their name and why black is such a great color.

    They met in a bar in an old, well-known and boring club in Stockholm, where both felt misplaced. They started talking and minutes later they were heading off to another club where they also felt a bit odd. But it wasn’t a complete waste of time; they did find their shared passion for music. This happened in 2012 and after that night For BDK was born. Since then they’ve released a couple of beloved songs, they’ve got a record deal with Warner and they’ve played at some great festivals.  

    JL: How would you describe For BDK for someone that doesn’t know who you are?

    MB: For BDK is dark but at the same time it has some bright elements. We are constantly developing, but always making dramatic music that arouses.

    AK: I would say that we’re an innovative band that plays dark and cinematic music with a little glimmer of pop.

    JL: Okay, and soon you will release your debut album after working on it for a long time. How does it feel?

    MB: It feels terrible. Terrible in a way that the record is like our baby that we have nurtured and now it’s time to let it stand on it’s own. It’s exciting but also frightening, because we’ve put our hearts and souls into it. The album will be analyzed and people will give their opinions on it when it’s released, good or bad, either way it will be scary.

    AK: I think it’s exciting and liberating, it will be nice to have it done. I had a lot of anxiety before, but now it feels good. When it’s released it will be a lot easier to work on new songs. And it’s going to be nice to work without pressure again.  

    JL: For how long has music been such a great part of your lives?

    MB: Since I was about eight years old I’ve been playing both different kinds of instruments and genres like transverse flute, punk, metal and indiepop. What I’ve been listening to has shifted through the years. After listening to both metal and Indiepop for a long time I eventually turned to electronic music, it felt like the best way to produce music in the exact way I wanted it to sound.  

    AK: Music has always been important in my life, but it wasn’t before I was 16 that I started to sing in a gospel-choir and later joined an indiepop band.  

    JL: Where do you find inspiration for making music?

    MB: A lot of my inspiration comes from film scores, like that in Melancholia (Von Trier, 2011) and Inception (Nolan, 2010). That’s the kind of music that grabs you and leaves you a bit emotional. I also listen to other genres, like classic music, hip-hop and electronic music.  

    AK: Since I sing and Marcus produces the music, I focus more on our lyrics, where dreams often inspire me. If I have to name artists that inspires me it would be FKA Twigs and Planningtorock.   

    JL: Can you tell us about your name For Bdk (For Body, Drugs and Kicks), how did you think that up?

    MB: Oh, actually it comes from a painting that I spotted at a café in Södermalm in Stockholm. It presented a woman laying down, smoking, with a text above saying: “She traded her body for drugs and kicks”, and I thought that if I someday will start a band I’m gonna call it For body, drugs and kicks. When I met Adele I suggested it, but she said that it was too long, so we decided to make it For BDK instead.

    JL: You both seem to be interested in clothes. How important is clothing for you, as individuals and as a band? And where do you find inspiration?

    MB: I don’t have a well thought-out style that I follow, I just put on what feels right at the moment. What’s important with clothes for me is that they are simple, with clean cuts and preferably in black. Black is a fantastic color. It communicates so much, but at the same time nothing at all. There’s like an underlying power in it.

    AK: For me it’s just as important as an individual as in our band. It’s a big part of life, since we wear clothes every day. What you wear is definitely a powerful way of making impressions and effects. And it’s fun. I’ve always had a need of dressing differently, and it’s getting bigger and bigger. I love to leap out, and I don’t know where it will end, what I will end up wearing, he he. I find a lot of inspiration from Brooke Candy, a crazy rapper, and from others on Instagram. And sometimes from people on the street.

    JL: Are you making any impact on each other’s styles?

    MB: I dress in whatever I feel like wearing and in clothes that I feel comfortable in, and I don’t think that I got any impact of Adele’s style. We’re dressing as two individuals, but our two styles go well together. As a band I think we have a unified style, and that it works as an amplification of the music.

    AK: I think that we might influence each other a little, but that we have two different styles that combined become a great combo.  

    JL: Do you have any favorite designers?

    AK: Ann-Sofie Back, Acne and Denim Is Dead. Though, I mostly buy my clothes in second hand-shops or at Tradera.

    MB: Our Legacy,  Adidas, Nike and KLAUN Collective are my favorites.  

    JL: How is a perfect Friday night out in Stockholm for you?

    AK: We’re often at Kåken, it’s a nice place to hang around in. Some nights when we feel like making the most of the night we go to Under bron/Trädgården or maybe Berns.

    JL: And as a last question, what’s the music collaboration of your dreams?

    AK & MB: There are so many, but to mention some we would really like to work with Burial, Jamie XX, James Blake and FKA Twigs.

    Marcus wears
    trousers ADIDAS 
    sandals CUSTOM MADE
    Adele wears
    jewelry BACK
    faux fur ADELE’S OWN
    feather boa, skirt & leggings STYLIST’S OWN
    pvc top worn over NOOID 
    shoes NIKE
    bracelet BACK
    faux fur ADELE’S OWN
    Marcus wears
    trousers ADIDAS
    shoes NIKE
    Adele wears
    skirt WEEKDAY
    headpiece MARIA NILSDOTTER
    Adele wears
    bra top ADIDAS
    belt as necklace TIGER OF SWEDEN
    Marcus wears
    Adele wears
    bra top & trousers ADIDAS
    skirt STYLIST’S OWN
    shoes & belt as necklace TIGER OF SWEDEN
    Marcus wears
    shirt as skirt PATRIK GUGGENBERGER
    shorts ADIDAS
    tights YVETTE HASS
    shoes NIKE
    feather boa STYLIST’S OWN
    pvc top worn over NOOID
    Marcus wears
    jacket MARCUS OWN 
    Adele wears
    skirt & leggings STYLIST’S OWN
    shoes NIKE
    bracelet BACK
    skirt MONKI
    faux fur & rings ADELE’S OWN
  • Sarah Moon - The Red Thread

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    Sarah Moon's current exhibition at the Swedish museum of photography, Fotografiska, in Stockholm is an adaptation of the french folklore story and book called The Blue Beard, it's about la mainmise, she says in french, the power of love that allows a man to kill.

    We grab two chairs and take a seat in the middle of the exhibition, tonight is the opening but nothing's ready yet. There are men drilling holes into the walls, the windows have been covered up making the room dark with just a few spots lighting up the art pieces. The walls are painted in a Cardinal red color, fitting the name of the exhibition, The Red Thread or as the original title in french Le Fil Rouge.

    SM: This is the fifth story I've done like this, mixing photos and video, the mediums is very reduced. I only shoot for three or four days and then I retell the story with what I've been able to capture during that time.

    MM: So everything we can see here is put together during those three of four days?

    SM: Oh, no. The editing takes a long time, but the filming, everything filmed has been done during three or four days, it's all a home production.

    MM: And the photography?

    SM: I do some of the photography during the filming days and then I have a few older pieces that I fill in with, for example the image of the seagull. That's why the story is very important to know, so I write underneath all of the photos, you know, that is the red thread. I've re-done all of the texts to fit my version of the story, the words are my own interpretations of The Blue Beard.

    There are mostly photographs in the exhibiting room, all with one or two sentences written underneath them which makes walking through the exhibition like reading a short novel, it's very captivating and allures you to read them all very carefully not to miss anything. There is also a film being prepared to be shown and in the end of the expo there are a few female portraits with large sculptural frames around them, almost like altars or obituaries.

    MM: Can you tell me about the obituaries?

    SM: I call them le tombe. The main character in the story, the girl, she goes into the forbidden room, and the tombs are a reconstitute part of that happening. So there's one tomb for each previous wife and the one that's empty is for the one who's telling the story, the heroine, the other four are already dead…

    The Read Thread is a part of Fotografiska's unique collection and will be shown under a limited time until the 7th of June, so escape the sunlight and go experience the storytelling of a true icon, Sarah Moon.

    Image courtesy of Sarah Moon & Fotografiska.