Room for creativity

Public art forms in Stockholm

Not only at exhibitions or museums, but also at public spaces in Stockholm you can find many different art installations. It gives the city its charm; inspires and brings about liveliness.

It was winter, when I arrived in this city to study for half a year. As in most cities, but especially in a city with the shortest day counting six hours of daylight, lights are more than welcome to escape the cold and darkness. Last year, they placed lit-up moose, a typical Swedish animal, on different squares throughout the city. It created a wonderful atmosphere and beautiful view together with all the lanterns and light strands in the streets.

Illuminated Christmas mooses are pictured at Nybroplan in central Stockholm. 710,708 different LED lights were lighted for the seasonal decoration. © JESSICA GOW / TT/AFP/Getty Images

Public art projects are most visible in subway stations deep underground. Almost every station feels special and has its own theme. The project began in the fifties and still continues today. The station nearest to my house and the university was Universitetet. At this station the art consists of texts from the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights. When you are waiting for the train to come, you think you are solving a crossword puzzle. There are also tiled artwork panels, which represent scientific subjects. The Swede Carolus Linnaeus, who invented our system of classifying species of living things, is a main theme here.

Subway station Universitetet with Declaration of Human Rights

At Thorildsplan the inspiration for the decorations were video games. Pac-Man and Mario Bros are well represented here.

Video game outlook of subway station Thorildsplan © Martin B Nagy

I also often passed the station Kungsträdgården, near the similar named square. I think this could be called the most heavily artificially transformed station. The ceiling is very colourful, there are many cool posters stuck to the wall and the Arsenalsgatan exit is reminiscent of a classical art museum. Water flows through this 34 metres underground station next to relics from old buildings in the centre.

Kungsträdgården subway station. © Alexander Dragunov

Event posters at Kunsträdgården © Imke van Rees

Furthermore, you can see more public art at the island Skeppsholmen in the centre of Stockholm. It is the island of some art museums like Moderna Museet. Close-by there are many multi-coloured sculptures. Sometimes the modern art sculptures do not actually suit the setting of the public park, and are hard to understand. Nevertheless, they add an extra dimension to your experience of walking through the area and create a livelier atmosphere.

Modern art sculptures at Skeppsholmen © Mary Jukuri

Graffiti is not exceptional in Sweden. Until 2014 there was a zero tolerance policy against street art. It has been debated a lot and it is surprising that in this northern city, of which most people think it is very clean, this legislation is changed. In my opinion, it did not disturb the streetscape; on the contrary, it can have the same effects as the other art forms and offers an interesting transition.

Graffiti in the centre of Stockholm © Imke van Rees

If I would really expand on public art forms, I could also say that the way people express theirselves is an identity of the city. Many have tattoos, piercings or coloured hair. This could be a temporary trend, but currently it gives an alternative and creative touch to Stockholm. There clearly is room for creativity.

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