A respect for the land and a genuine sense of harmony between man and nature are two elements I’ve noticed to be strongly present in Sweden. A sense of balance and connectivity with the earth can be seen in architecture, art, education, family life and urban planning.
Artipelag— a one-year-old art gallery located just outside of Stockholm— is a living example of these values. The sweeping structure can barely be spotted from the seafront. This was done by design so as not to disturb the seamless coastline, according to owner and one of Sweden’s most successful entrepreneurs, Baby Björn founder Björn Jakobson.
In essence, the clean lines of the building both accommodate and celebrate the rocky archipelago, dense pine forests and slinky birch trees encasing the eclectic exhibits of both contemporary and traditional international art. Even the capricious Baltic Sea, which last year nearly froze over parts of the dock where boats can come right up to the gallery’s waterfront, plays a role as a permanent exhibit overseeing what goes on inside through the scores of towering, floor-to-ceiling windows facing the water.
The name of the gallery, “Artipelag”, is a play on Sweden’s famed rocky archipelago, one of the largest in the world. This rocky topography is interwoven literally into the gallery. A huge rock sits square in the center of the café with lean, porcelain candles buttressing the back so little climbing children don’t fall off! The owners were so attached to this massive stone that they essentially built part of the gallery around the ancient rock.
Attention to detail and raw enthusiasm for the art that lives in nature as well as in man is personified by the owner of the gallery, Björn Jakobson and his wife Lillemor. We were met by the couple, and later their daughter Josefin, who passionately described the inspiration for the gallery as a place for children and parents to come together to appreciate a diverse array of art, go for a walk along the boardwalk which is wheel-chair accessible, attend a concert in the massive auditorium or eat in the restaurant which boasts fresh local fare and a chef who won an award on the culinary team for the Olympics.
The gallery is designed to pique all the senses. In additions to the eyes, the acoustics have been adjusted to near-perfection to the point that an 800-person dinner was convened there recently and no one had to shout over the din at their respective tables, Mr. Jakobson informed us. Even the nose is scintillated by the combination of tar—in homage to the way sailors and boat-makers would protect their boats by painting them with tar— to the cinnamon floating from the café where warm kanelbulle and fresh confections are made on-site.
Almost every aspect of the art process has been attended to and can be accommodated on the grounds, including acclimatized storage and a facility that can support the weight of a huge truck hauling in sculptures or rock. A graceful flow and movement is incorporated into the exhibition rooms that currently showcase artists Paul Gernes and Cosima von Bonin. The vision of the gallery is to have a flexible model that displays a variety of genres and styles of art and appeals to families, the 55-plus age group and those who may or may not be art connoisseurs. In May, Artipelag will feature American photographer William Wegman and his collection “Hello Nature”. Mark and I are especially excited about that since Mr. Wegman’s work is largely inspired by the Maine woods. My husband has been spending summers in the northernmost part of Maine for nearly 40 years, sailing, hiking, fishing and reveling in nature. Some of our fondest family memories are hiking through Acadia National Park with our newborn daughter strapped to Mark’s chest in a Baby Björn!
In this way, our worlds of family life, art and nature collide in Artipelag and we cannot wait to explore further exhibitions and bring our family there again!