Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light

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Nationalmuseum in Sweden opened its doors for the first time in 1792 in the Royal Palace, Stockholm. In 1866 it was moved to the current building at Blasieholmen was considered one of the most modern museums in Europe. 150 years later, however, the museum was outdated and the Swedish government decided to close the museum for five years to undertake a renovation project. Today, you can experience the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a completely new light.

Last year, Sweden’s museum of art and design, Stockholm reopened in a new light. Daily Scandinavian has interviewed senior curator Dr. Helena Kåberg, who took an essential part in the process and has also edited and co-written the book, Nationalmuseum in a New Light.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
Dr. Kåberg tells us that the biggest challenge of the renovation process, was to develop the building for modern requirements and needs

Dr. Kåberg tells us that the museum had never been renovated and the biggest challenge of the renovation process, which started in 2014, was to maintain the 150-year-old cultural building and develop it for modern requirements and needs,  including climate, lightning, logistics and extensions.

Related: The Island of Skeppsholmen in Stockholm

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
The collections comprise of painting, sculpture, drawings and prints from 1500-1900 and applied arts, design and portraits from early Middle Ages up until present day.

A demanding task
In October last year, the museum building designed by the German architect Friedrich August Stüler, had undergone a wide-ranging renovation and refurbishment carried out by the National Property Board Sweden.

Related: Sweden’s Largest Art Museum Reopens after 5 years of Renovation

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
It was important to find the right colors on the walls to present different paintings in the best possible way

“Collaborating with architects as well as the National Property Board Sweden has been a demanding task,” says Kåberg, “but it has been a constructive process to get an old building to function as a modern museum able to offer diverse activities as well as exhibitions. The construction of technical installations has been a challenge in itself, but we are proud of the result», she adds.

Related: Sweden’s Largest Art Museum Reopens After 5 Years of Renovation

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
Even if the color scheme is new, it has been inspired from the Stühler’s color scales from the 1860s

From 1,700 to 5,300 pieces of art
5,300 cubic meters of stone carved out from the ground have been removed and given place for both technical rooms buried in the rock under the museum and raised the capacity to display works from about 1,700 pieces to 5,300. Now, the National Museum can have up to 2,000 people in its premises at the same time, twice the previous number.

Kåberg emphasizes that the most important part of the whole process has been to present the artworks in the best possible way. For most paintings, it’s essential to consider the background as part of the composition. Therefore, it was important to find the right colors on the walls to present different paintings in the best possible way. Even if the color scheme is new, it has been inspired from the Stühler’s color scales from the 1860s, and in our view the result has become a fine-tuned balance of creativity and elegance.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
The museum building designed by the German architect Friedrich August Stüler

Related: National Museum in Copenhagen – a Journey in Time and Space

Background colors and light
Deciding on the colors was, however, not an easy process, admits Dr. Kåberg.  In the 1800s, architects were more focused on colors other than white on the walls, and the cultural-historical views eventually gained a foothold.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
The wide-ranging renovation and refurbishment h ave been carried out by the National Property Board Sweden

A background color is best suited to a particular type of images, while other colors emphasize others better. Combining paintings with sculptures and artefacts from the same period, has also proven to create environments that other museums can learn from.

The windows to the south atrium were covered by bricks in the 1960s and turned into an auditorium and a magazine. Other windows were covered from the inside. These windows have now been opened up, letting the light in. The atrium has been given new roofs and an impressive, enormous lift has been installed to take a large number of people and artworks up and down the three floors to simplify the logistic. Imagine an elevator big enough to host an opening party for the co-workers.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
Climate, lightning, logistics and extensions have all been an important part of the renovation process

One million visitors last year
Since the opening last year, more than one million people has visited the Nationalmuseum compared to about previously 390,000 annually.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light
Dr. Kolberg beside one of the fire security solutions

«The future challenges», says Kåberg, “is to present more diversified exhibitions and attract a younger audience. This can be done by linking stories to exhibitions from different eras and thereby creating relevant conversation topics based on visual experiences».

Nationalmuseum In A New Light book-cover

National Museum in Stockholm Stockholm in a New Light
In the beautiful book, Nationalmuseum in a New Light, Dr. Helena Kåberg and other experts invite the reader to follow the entire process, from the founding of the Nationalmuseum and on through its early developments and the changes in the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. The book is richly illustrated with the original watercolor drawings of Friedrich August Stüler, archive pictures and newly taken photographs by Bruno Ehrs. This publication marks a milestone in the museum’s history. Nationalmuseum in a New Light is published in a Swedish as well as an English version.

The renovation has been financed by the Swedish government and some private funds.

All photos: Tor Kjolberg

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in a New Light, Dr. Helena Kåberg interviewed by Tor Kjolberg

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