A collection never stands still. It is not only changed by new acquisitions. Depending on how the collection is presented, in the museum, in exhibitions, in guided tours and in research, the collection is made accessible to the public in different ways.
The rich and internationally acclaimed collection is the basis for the various ways in which the museum communicates, such as exhibitions, guided tours and research. But it is also the aim of the Gothenburg Museum of Art to present images that transcend the boundaries of traditional art, such as artworks from children’s book illustrations and comics.
The selection that is on display at any given time is part of a narrative in which art works enter a dialogue with each other and with the public. Ongoing re-hangings aim to include art works that expand conventional art history. For example, the museum has actively shown the work of previously unrecognized women artists.
A Unique Collection Thanks to Generous Donations
In 1876, the merchant Bengt Erland Dahlgren, along with a number of artworks, donated 250 000 SEK to start the fund that ever since has financed the museum’s new acquisitions.
Together with his wife, Göthilda Fürstenberg, the merchant Pontus Fürstenberg put together an exceptional collection of primarily Nordic art from the final decades of the 19th century. Fürstenberg collected the new, radical art of the time and showed it to the public in his gallery at Brunnsparken. The couple donated their collection to the city of Gothenburg. In 1902 it was transferred to the Gothenburg Museum, and in 1925 it was installed in the newly-built Gothenburg Museum for Art. This preeminent collection, shown with major parts of Per Hasselberg’ s sculpture groups for the ceiling in the original gallery, provides a unique insight into the taste and artistic outlook of a prescient collector around the turn of the century 1900.
From 1918 and onwards, the shipping magnate Werner Lundquist donated works by 18th century Swedish artists and French impressionists, and a number of works by Ivar Arosenius, among others. In 1921 the director Gustaf Werner began his magnificent contribution as a donor with Rembrandt’s The Knight with the Falcon. A large number of paintings by Flemish and Dutch 17th century were soon to follow.
A Varying Acquisition Policy
The focus of the acquisition policy has varied throughout the history of the Gothenburg Museum of Art. The emphasis on Nordic art has been a constant, and continues to be the collection’s strongpoint. In the beginning, mostly contemporary art was acquired. First during the 1910s there was a drive to create a collection of older art to provide a historical background to the modern works. The driving force in this expansion of the museum’s scope was curator Axel L. Romdahl. With the aid of donations from art collectors like Werner Lundqvist and Gustaf Werner, he was able to purchase works by among others Rembrandt and Rubens, as well as Swedish 17th century and Rococo works. The donations also added several paintings of an international standing to the French collection.
During the 1950s and 1960s the focus broadened from the Nordic countries to international contemporary art. Not least, the museum at this time acquired an excellent collection of Spanish Modern art as well as European and North American Pop art. Later on, the museum reverted to its Nordic profile, but the specific focus on Gothenburg and the West coast of Sweden has also been evident at times.
The collection of the Gothenburg Museum of Art comprises approximately 70 000 works in various media. Over the years, the collection has been improved thanks to acquisitions financed by the starting fund, as well as direct donations of individual works or entire collections. Every year since it was founded in 1942, the society called the Friends of the Gothenburg Museum of Art has contributed funds for new acquisitions. The museum also has a collection of artworks from children’s book illustrations that was donated by the museum’s affiliated society, the Friends of Children’s Book Illustrations.
The Collection in Figures
The collection of the Gothenburg Museum of Art today comprises around 4 300 paintings, sculptures, installations and video works, 61 000 watercolours, drawings and graphic works, 900 photographs and 2 300 artworks from children’s book illustrations.
At present, approximately 600 works from the collection are on display in the museum. An additional 700 are on long-term loans in various buildings primarily connected to the city council. The rest of the collection is housed in storage facilities. The collection of art on paper, mostly watercolours, drawings and prints, is one of the largest in Sweden. It is made up of works by Swedish and international artists from the 15th century until today.
The collection of drawings and prints is of an international standing in terms of both size and quality. It also includes the comprehensive collection of children’s book illustrations.
If you want to find out more about the works in the collection, you will find more in-depth presentations in the book The Collection. The Gothenburg Museum of Art.
Painting 3 300
Drawing 11 000
Print 50 000
Artwork from children’s book illustrations 2 300
Video work 30
600 are shown in the museum
700 are on long-term loan