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Friday, January 25, 2013

Sven-Harrys (Konstmuseum)

Stockholm's Sven-Harrys (Konstmuseum) is one of the most inventive art venues around. Completed in 2011, the multi-use structure is the brainchild of successful building contractor Sven-Harry Karlsson. Designed by Wingårdh Architects, the golden six-storied box overlooks a lovely park and houses an art gallery, museum, restaurant, residential flats and commercial offices.

Administered by a foundation, Sven-Harrys presents a revolving schedule of exhibitions on its lower floors. When I visited it was very much a family affair with photographs by the renowned Stig T. Karlsson, Sven-Harry's brother, and gorgeous and sophisticated abstract quilts made by his niece, Lisa Karlsson. The foundation also provides grants for important works within the arts or related areas.

Recreated on the top floor of the building are the floor plan and furnishings of Sven-Harry’s former home, the 18th-century manor house Ekholmsnäs on Lidingö. It's completely unexpected in this contemporary structure, but somehow it works. For those interested in interior design the rooms provide a wonderful example of an elegant domestic interior. Beautifully appointed, they showcase Sven-Harry's eclectic collection of paintings (August Strndberg, Carl Fredrik Hill, Dan Wolger) and furniture (Georg Haupt, Gio Ponti), including spectacular rugs by Marta Maas Fjetterström. I have to digress here and speak about Swedish rugs. There was one in a conference room before you entered the apartment that was just splendid. It and others I saw at the auction house, Bukowski's, were a revelation to me. Rich colors and patterns that seemed almost Navajo, certainly tribal that must hark back to the Vikings. Why had I never heard about them before? 

I particularly admired Sven-Harry's library with its pale green walls, red lampshades, shelves of books and comfortable seating. It seemed to combine both coolness and warmth—a fittingly Nordic place to curl up with a book. In the dining room, I saw that the charming, 18th century chandelier was not electrified and was struck, as I had been numerous times on my trip, with the Swedes' appreciation for light. Deprived of it during the winter months, they have become connoisseurs of it, using candles whenever possible. I had an epiphany right then and there and decided how silly it is to electrify chandeliers in dining rooms.

Apparently, Sven-Harry has an apartment elsewhere in the building, but I suspect he spends a good deal of time, when the museum is closed, hanging out in his old digs. I noticed in the expansive kitchen a bag of coffee by the espresso machine and though immaculate, the kitchen looked like it was used. It struck me as the best of both worlds, a more practical flat to live in and then your country estate, complete with wrap around deck and stunning views, just an elevator ride away.

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