Anna Grundberg is a half English, half Swedish Art Consultant based between London and Oxfordshire. She runs her own company from West London but is often in Stockholm. This winter Anna opens an exhibition that looks at the art of Akseli Gallen-Kallela, one of Finland’s most important painters, in relation to the work of his Nordic contemporaries. British Council Sweden considers Anna’s plans to awaken the British public to nineteenth century Nordic art.
Having grown up in an Anglo-Swedish household, it was almost a given that Anna would develop a strong interest in Swedish culture and history. But it is over the last 5 years that she’s become increasingly interested in Finland, Finnish painting and the unique, distinctive quality that infuses the art of Sweden’s Nordic neighbour. “I’ve long felt that Nordic art from the turn of the last century needs to be better known outside the region,” she explains. “While contemporary Nordic style, fashion, furniture, music, film - even banking and the high quality of life - have been written about extensively in the British media, I think that it’s time that Nordic art created during the nineteenth and twentieth century is given more international attention.”
Anna decided to develop an exhibition in a gallery in London to coincide with the centenary of Finland’s independence. Her display, Independent Finland: Gallen-Kallela and His Nordic Contemporaries, will feature painting and other media by Finnish and Nordic artists who were active during the turn of the last century, as well as works by three contemporary Nordic artists all influenced in some way by Finland. Gallen-Kallela forms the focus of the display, but the show will also feature well-known painters such as one of Finland’s best-loved female artists, Helene Schjerfbeck, and the painters Albert Edelfelt and Eero Järnefelt. By involving the other Nordic nationalities, Anna’s aim is to emphasise that while each country was jostling with its own internal struggles which produced a variety of genres and styles, the Nordic countries were also closely united by certain concerns and experiences. This manifested itself in painting with a common use of light, an overriding interest in the natural world and the growing theme of national independence.
As an Art Consultant based in London, a city credited as one of the epicentres of the global art market, Anna is well placed to choose artists to exhibit and in a position to offer a unique overview of the art market in the Nordic countries today. ‘From my perspective the Finnish art market appears to possess a more defined, national focus and interest. At times this can mean that the nation looks inwards more than outwards.’ She hopes to use the exhibition to foster an increased awareness of nineteenth century Finnish art outside national borders. By contrast, Anna regards the Swedish art market as focussed on bringing home-grown contemporary painting and photography to wider attention while possibly neglecting to celebrate the art of the past. Given the important contributions that Swedish artists made around the turn of the twentieth century, be that recording events such as the loss of Norway, or driving aesthetic change such as Scandinavian modernism, Anna is intent that these painters deserve regular celebration.
Can Britain help Finland and Sweden market their art and artworks in a different way? Anna’s impression is that internal marketing works well within Sweden and Finland, and curating is already a respected, important profession. But with a large number of paintings and artworks remaining in private collections, a bolder approach could be taken when it comes to planning experimental exhibitions that move outside the region and take the world by surprise.