Welcome to one of Northern Europe’s Leading Museums for Visual Art
With an internationally renowned collection, a solid exhibition program, in-depth research and a broad selection of educational activities, the Gothenburg Museum of Art is one of Northern Europe’s finest museums for visual art.
The collection of the Gothenburg Museum of Art includes primarily Western art from the 15th century until today, with an emphasis on Nordic art. In particular, the section containing Nordic art from around the turn of the century 1900 is unique of its kind.
With the goal of extending the understanding of what an art museum can be, the Gothenburg Museum of Art exhibits and acquires a broad range of visual expressions that include art, children’s book illustrations and comics. In terms of both exhibitions and acquisitions, there is a strong focus on Nordic contemporary art, in which the emphasis is on the artwork’s unique qualities, rather than technical aspects.
The Gothenburg Museum of Art aims to change the way we see and experience art by showing artworks and artists from unexpected perspectives, in order to expand and problematize the narrative of art history. In the display of the permanent collection, historical and contemporary artworks enter a dialogue that activates and vitalizes the collection for visitors. The exhibition program also cross-fertilizes classical art with contemporary art, and local art with national or international art. With a diverse exhibition program and a multitude of mediating activities, the Gothenburg Museum of Art is a cultural and social meeting point for an exchange of knowledge and experiences.
Sweden’s Third Largest Art Museum
Gothenburg Museum of Art is the third largest art museum in Sweden in terms of the size of its collection. The collection spans from historical to contemporary art. Gothenburg Museum of Art has a varied exhibition program with a mix of historical art and art from our time, as well as Nordic and international art. The museum also aims to show the collection from new perspectives and facilitate a dialogue between historical and contemporary art. Problematizing exhibitions are frequently shown, conveying the results of the museum’s research department to the public. With a broad selection of educational activities, different stories of art are communicated, made deeper and problematized.
Apart from temporary exhibitions and selected parts of the permanent collection, the museum offers a broad program of family activities, lectures, creative workshops and guided tours. Gothenburg Museum of Art receives around 250 000 visitors per year from over a hundred different nations. The museum’s three stars in the Michelin Green Guide indicate that the museum alone is worth the trip to Gothenburg.
Thanks to the museum’s research department, collaboration with external researchers and universities has intensified, providing a solid foundation from which the museum can pose relevant questions about its role. The museum’s publication series, Skiascope, publishes research on questions concerning the museum world, the art world, and the writing of art history.
Active Art Education Based on the Collection
The current presentation of the collection is a story about art that can be made more in-depth with the aid of the museum’s educational activities. Research creates new knowledge about the collection and the museum’s history, and at the same time provides critical perspectives on the museum and the way art history is written. Here, we examine museum practices such as representation, how the collection is displayed, collecting, art education and museum architecture, and discuss how they create the conditions for how art is communicated and received. Questions regarding representation and critique of norms are crucial in this ambition. The museum consistently strives to problematize and increase awareness about conventions regarding taste, hierarchies in art, and mechanisms of exclusion.
The comprehensive collection is also an invaluable asset in the production of temporary exhibitions. Artworks that have been borrowed from other museums and collections for temporary exhibitions create new contexts for the artworks in the Gothenburg Museum of Art, and when other museums borrow our artworks they can meet new audiences in other cities. In this way, the Gothenburg Museum of Art is part of an international network that makes it possible to show exhibitions of exceptional art in Gothenburg, while the museum’s own works become recognized all over the world.
In the exhibition series In Dialogue with the Collection, the Gothenburg Museum of Art has invited artists to interact with various parts of the museum by introducing artworks that serve as a commentary to the permanent collection. It is yet another way to provide critical perspectives, and at the same time present the collection in a novel, thought-provoking context. This is one of the strategies used by the Gothenburg Museum of Art to allow different voices to be heard, and contribute their interpretations and perspectives in order to challenge the established narrative of art history.
In the web catalogue Search the Collection, visitors can access the artworks that are shown in the various parts of the museum, but also a substantial number of the artworks that are held in storage. Here those who wish to know more will find more information and references regarding the artworks in the collection. In web exhibitions groups of works are presented thematically to provide an insight into new acquisitions as well as different parts of the collection.
Gothenburg Museum of Art has a forerunner in the Art Department at the Gothenburg Museum in Gothenburg’s East India House, the building once belonging to the East India Company that now houses the Gothenburg City Museum. Gothenburg Museum, founded in 1861, displayed collections of history, natural history and ethnography as well as art. In 1865, the Art Society of Gothenburg donated its art collection, chiefly made up of paintings in the prevailing style connected to the German city Düsseldorf, to the museum. This became the foundation for the collection of the Gothenburg Museum of Art. An acquisition board was established in 1878, and in the same year Berndt Lindholm was appointed curator of the art collection. Axel L. Romdahl took over in 1906 and stayed for 40 years. With the contacts he had both in the wealthy Gothenburg bourgeoisie and in the international museum world, Romdahl made his mark on the origination and expansion of the museum during the first half of the 20th century.
The growing collection created the need for a bigger building. In 1916, during the preparations for Gothenburg’s 300th anniversary, a competition was announced for the design of Götaplatsen – a new centre for culture containing a city theatre, a concert hall, an art museum and an art gallery as a monumental termination of the most important street in town, Kungsportsavenyen.
The museum building, designed by Arvid Bjerke and Sigfrid Ericson, was erected for the Jubilee Exhibition of 1923. Two years later, the museum was inaugurated, after the interiors were completed and the display of the collection was in place. The loftily situated building has a monumental appearance but is conspicuously lacking in depth. The architecture is inspired by Roman antiquity but also has connections to Swedish 1920s classicism. The façade is stripped of details apart from the seven high arches that create contrast. Terracing and stairs in hewn natural stone constitute a powerful foundation for the building, constructed in the yellow brick that is typical for Gothenburg. The interior is also characterized by a restrained Classicism in which the proportions play an important role.
Since its inauguration in 1925, the Gothenburg Museum of Art has been expanded twice. In 1968, a wing with an exhibition hall was added to the east side of the original building, and also a section with three levels for the modern collection at the back. In January 1996, a new entrance was built, including an expansion housing the Hasselblad Center, the museum store, and a restaurant. Pål Svensson’s iron gates in front of the entrance also stem from this time.
A Unique Art Museum Thanks to Generous Donors
As a center for industry, trade and business, Gothenburg has ever since the 19th century been influenced by a number of affluent inhabitants with a strong commitment to society. To a large extent, the museum is indebted to this donation-positive culture for building up its reputable collection. In 1876, the merchant Bengt Erland Dahlgren donated a number of artworks, and 250 000 SEK to start the fund that ever since has financed the museum’s new acquisitions. Since then, the collection has been expanded chiefly through the donations of art collectors such as Pontus and Göthilda Fürstenberg, Werner Lundqvist and Gustaf Werner.
The construction of the museum building was also made possible thanks to donations, chiefly by the banker Jonas Kjellberg, who also generously added many works to the museum’s collection of paintings. Since its foundation in 1942, the society called the Friends of the Gothenburg Museum of Art has donated a large number of works to the museum. The museum’s other affiliated society, the Friends of Children’s Book Illustrations, has donated around 2 000 images from children’s literature. Apart from larger donations, a number of private citizens have donated individual works over the years. Osvald Arnulf-Olsson supported the expansion in 1968 financially, and has also donated a large number of works to the collection.
The Sten A Olsson Foundation for Research and Culture has repeatedly supported the museum with generous donations, among others contributions to the new entrance in 1996, and project-specific funds to establish a research department at the museum in 2008. In 2014, the Torsten Söderberg Foundation financed a comprehensive book about the museum collection.
Gothenburg Museum of Art is a part of the Cultural Administration of the City of Gothenburg. This entails that the plan for the museum’s activities corresponds with the overarching goals of the City Council and the intermediate goals of the Culture Board.
Since 2009, the Gothenburg Museum of Art has resumed the publication of an annual report that describes the museum’s activities in writing and images; among other things, the year’s exhibitions, re-hangings of the permanent collection, and research projects. Furthermore, all new acquisitions are presented with illustrations. The aim of the annual report is to create documentation to support research and a form of materialized memory to facilitate the museum’s activities.
Top Image: The Fürstenberg Gallery. Sculptures by Per Hasselberg and painting in focus by Martina Müntzing, Farewell to a view, 2020.