OpenART is Scandinavia’s biggest public art biennial, running for twelve weeks in Örebro, Sweden. With its fifth edition in 2015 (Örebro OpenArt 14th June-6th September) OpenART commits once again to turning the city upside down, with art that will surprise, intrigue and inspire.
Contemporary art from all over the world is temporarily displayed in the city center, for everyone to experience without an admission ticket. The public space becomes under OpenART an intensively shared space, that people acknowledge, re-experience and re-collect. Additionally, OpenART takes a broad leap into the public arena, with projects and activities that reach out to a diverse public. Guided tours, activities for children and young people, as well as special events are available for everyone under the summer of 2015.
When OpenART’s in town, the cityscape is lifted to a vibrant dimension, where art seems to peek-a-boo at passersby. People will encounter art in places they least expect it everywhere in the city center – in the streets, shop windows, facades, on the water surface, around the castle or in parks. The great thing is that the artworks are in within 10-minute walking radius from Örebro castle, making the exhibition easily accessible by foot or bike.
Every edition, OpenART exhibits about 100 artworks, created by contemporary artists, locally and internationally known. Iconic creations like BadBad Boy (Tommi Toija, 2013), The Big Yellow Rabbit (Florentijn Hofman, 2011), Bunny Project (Conny Bloom, 2009) and Spectacle Agnostico (Kent Karlsson, 2008) have infused small- and large-scale fantasy into the public space, making headlines in the international media.
photo; Al Weiwei, Xu Bing, Song dong at OpenART
In 2015, OpenART showcases 72 artists who exhibit 130 artworks on more than 70 venues indoors and outdoors.
OpenART challenges perceptions of what art is, building bridges between cultures and people, while fostering local and international art dialogue.
It all started in 2008, when two rebel hearts and devoted art freaks decided to give people an alternative art space, one that would be experienced not only physically; a space that people would acknowledge, relive and recollect; a space that would remain in the collective conscience and that would be sacredly kept at the heart of the public. Art for everybody, in the city center – this was the idea that sparked a long-term collaboration and friendship between Mats Nilsson, then Head of the city’s art gallery and Lars Jonsson, a recently Örebro-relocated artist.
2008 The Art Gallery organizes the first OpenART
Mats and Lars started working together at the art gallery in 2007. That year, the gallery received a new policy directive to display art in unconventional places.
“And then it struck us. Lars and I both wanted to the same thing – an exciting project that would put cutting-edge art on display in public locations in Örebro”, says Mats.
As a result, OpenART started in the summer of 2008. The first edition featured 71 artists, mostly from Scandinavia, whose works were exhibited anywhere from hidden corners downtown Örebro to shop windows, on rooftops or on the surface of river Svartån. It became popular among the people in no time. A surprise came already in 2008, when OpenART was awarded the “Surprise of the Year” award (Årets överraskning) at Örebrogalan.
2009 OpenART grows
In 2009, the confirmation that OpenART was becoming international came once the artist selection process begun. Applications from many parts of the world came pouring in. Örebro was taking its first step on the world’s cultural map as an exciting art platform.
2011 A Big Yellow Rabbit
At its third edition in 2011, OpenART made headlines in the international media, after a gigantic bunny was dropped in Örebro’s central square, its tail against the sculpture of Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, one of Sweden’s greatest national heroes. Florentijn Hofman’s Big Yellow Rabbit became an icon, loved by many and condemned by some due to its location. The love for the city’s big rabbit went as far as determining a group of people to campaign for saving it from dismantlement.
The campaign to save the rabbit did not succeed. Mats Nilsson explained in an interview with The Telegraph that “We are not interested in having the rabbit reduced to a commercial gimmick.”
After a successful 2011, Mats Nilsson received Örebro Sparbanks’ culture scholarship for his involvement in the exhibition.
2013 Largest Scandinavia
Following a new political decision, OpenART became an organization of its own in 2013. It has since functioned as an independent project within the Municipality of Örebro. The event is realized in close cooperation with the City Art Gallery, Örebro County Museum and Konstfrämjandet Bergslagen.
Benefiting from great support from partners, OpenART developed diverse projects meant to actively involve a wider audience in a dialogue with art. Besides guided tours, projects for children and young people, as well as programs for artists in all stages of their careers have taken place under OpenART. Two such projects are OpenART Kids and OpenART Academy.
In 2013, OpenART established itself as the biggest public art biennial in Scandinavia, featuring more than 100 works by 71 artists from all over the world, OpenART Kids, OpenART Academy, guided tours and special night tours, as well as special events. Almost all OpenART activities are free of charge.
2015 Big focus on Contemporary Chinese Art
At the fifth edition of OpenART, a special focus is on Contemporary Chinese Art. A unique curatorial collaboration between independent art curator Feng Boyi and OpenART Director Lars Jonnson sees thirteen contemporary artists from China preparing artworks for unprecedented exhibitions, symbolically entitled “Encounter” and “No Holds Barred”. Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing and Song Dong are among the participants.
OpenART 2015 has received a record interest, with 450 artists from more than 70 countries sending in applications. In 2015, OpenART showcases some 130 artworks, created by 72 artists from 19 countries. The artworks will be exhibited on more than 70 venues across city center.
A few of the Artists
Åsa Andersson Born 1965 in Stockholm, Sweden. Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden
From series: The Cherry Blossom Sanatorium – Video, objects, prints/photographs, light.
The Cherry Blossom Sanatorium is a ‘work in progress’ name for different works presented in art contexts, prose and poetry writing and illustrated talks.
Raking in the autumn, I am stunned by wonder. The start of buds. Silk, wounds of resin. I barely dare to cross the ground.
Spring. Small protrusions glisten in the wind, falling down towards the source. Down there, in the soil – all these little ghosts. If I touch a blossom, quickly on its way, a pirouette, and then as I said, down. A part of me is also carried down to the source. I actually believe this. All small ghosts live in the soil.
The Cherry Blossom Sanatorium – the name appears despite the difficulty in pronouncing it. I do not know if it is intended for only blossoms, or if others can be taken in or sign up. Or if the blossoms themselves act as host? I will investigate this. They do also carry a marvellous light.
In Japan, one can find cherry blossom tea. The petals are dark pink with salt powdered around. The grains have absorbed the spring. My purchased package remains unbroken for a long time. Somebody said the tea tasted like tears.
Johan Suneson Born 1963 in Västanfors, Sweden. Lives and works in Malmö, Sweden
Elephants, Flamingos. The animal sculptures consist of incomplete bodies, where visitors can step in and replace the parts that are missing. In this way one can merge with the animals, and for a moment change his or her perspective. The exotic animals are sculptured in a round style, reminiscent of animated interpretations or soft toys. They constitute a comment on empathizing with things, but they also an association with play.
In art, there is freedom and fantasy. Art is a part of reality. It can be a statement and an invitation. It can arouse the viewer’s memories or lead to speculation. I want my sculptures and paintings to look homemade and strange. I want the viewer to feel that there are different ways of looking at things. It is good if art can remind us that perspectives can and will differ.
Cecilia Jansson Born 1975 in Lund, Sweden. Lives and works in Örebro, Sweden.
Now (2015) Video projection (duration 1 hour), sound and ornate plates from prison in a container 6-12 meters depending on space.
Now is an attempt to transfer the viewers to the corridor under the high security prison in Kumla. The corridor is decorated by artists and inmates, both recently and in the 70ties. The title Now refers to the inmates’ lack of patience that I experienced while working with this decoration project.
Time moves very slow there. They want things to happen now, not tomorrow, not the next week, but now. One of the reasons could be that they are waiting for so many things already that one more thing feels almost unbearable. The installation shows the everyday life in this long corridor that connects the buildings in the prison. You can look at some of the beautiful art made by the inmates, but if you want action, you have to learn to wait.
My works are dealing with the value of people’s identity. I want to explore what preconceptions and prejudices are hidden in our need to put people in groups. I have made art with, for or about some of the hidden, forgotten or ignored groups in society. I want to make people consider the fact that every group is made of individuals with unique personalities. The need to put labels on people is worth investigating. What is the label good for?
Photos and text credited to Openart.se and the artists mentioned above.
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