Visual arts If a “male performer” visits this gallery, the artists warn each other with safety words – a gallery has been set up in Sweden that does not accept works by male artists on its walls


Stockholm the sophisticated Östermalm district of Sturegatan is busy and chilly on Tuesday afternoons. As you turn from the street onto Linnégatan’s side street and leave behind Humlegården Park as well as the city’s Royal Library, something expensive is expected in front of the street scene.

A crackling text, Misschiefs, is glued to the windows on the ground floor of a large office property. The premises of the old laundry have been moved to an art gallery.

The Misschiefs collection was supposed to tour European galleries, but then came a pandemic. My own gallery space was created as a rescue operation for the original plan, Paola Bjäringer says.

The name is a translation of the English word mischief, which, when translated freely, means joking or teasing. To the founder of Misschiefs, a cultural entrepreneur and curator To Paola Bjäringer it is reminiscent of Peppi Longstocking.

The image fits well into the agenda of space and activity, Bjäringer says.

Misschiefs is a gallery and workspace reserved for women and artists of the opposite sex. Artists do not pay rent for the premises and do not have to pay a commission to the gallery if the art is purchased.

I have arrived here to meet Bjäringer and a Finnish artist Minna Palmqvistia and talk about how the art field can be changed.

For example, a large proportion of students in art and design schools are non-male, but men still seem to take up the most space in the art world, at least in Sweden, Bjäringer says.

At the end of the year, four artists worked at the Misschiefs Gallery. Pictured are artists Farvash (left), Hanna Stansvik, curator Paola Bjäringer, Minna Palmqvist and Butch X Femme.

Bjäringer was born in Sweden, grew up in France and graduated with a master’s degree in gender studies from the London School of Economics.

Most recently, Bjäringer lived in France. According to him, Paris is quite a privileged place in the sense that there culture surrounds people from all directions.

Art and cultural life is largely based on people hanging out in cafes, restaurants and galleries around the city, Bjäringer says.

Terrorist attacks in November 2015 however, ousted the atmosphere of the city. 130 people died in the attacks, 90 of them at a concert at the Bataclan Theater.

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During the attacks, Bjäringer ran a gallery called Slott, which specializes in design and contemporary art. According to him, the city was even more deserted after the events than it was now during the pandemic.

Small entrepreneurs and the cultural sector are suffering badly. The atmosphere seemed hopeless.

That is why the gallerist decided to go to Sweden with his family. She had heard much good about feminist art and design in her native country, but arriving in Stockholm seemed empty.

Bjäringer wondered where all the interesting artists were. The walls of the galleries seemed to depend mainly on the work of well-known and respected male artists.

Artist Hanna Stansvik and founder Paola Bjäringer in the exhibition space of the Misschiefs Gallery. The gallery has been given the space of a former laundry.

First The Swedish year was spent looking for artists.

Bjäringer toured the country and found a lot of talented people who just didn’t seem to have the space to introduce themselves.

People did not seem to encounter each other in the same way as in the cultural cafés and galleries of Paris. In order for non-men to stand out, there must be space for them, Bjäringer thought.

First came the idea of ​​the Misschiefs collection, which combines art, design and craftsmanship, in which Bjäringer collected works by ten Swedish women or womxn artists. Term womxn is, among other things, a word used in the context of intersectional feminism to avoid the use of the word “man” and which feminists consider more comprehensive than the word “women”.

Swedish appears on the surface to be a very equal country. However, the situation in the Finnish art field is better, comments the art expert, curator Aura Seikkula. Seikkula has lived in Stockholm and curated exhibitions for the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern and the Artipelag Art Gallery, among others.

Curator Aura Seikkula defended her dissertation at the University of Jyväskylä in 2019 on the special nature of producing artistic information.

Seikkula alienates and opposes the binary categorization and confrontation of the sexes. According to him, such a debate perpetuates exactly the structures that should be dismantled.

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He considers the actions that exclude the men of the Misschiefs from two perspectives.

First of all, according to Seikkula, the Swedish art field is surprisingly sexist.

“I have worked in many cultures. I am not surprised at the provocation of women because they have been the target of so much sexism. In my experience, more than in Finland, for example, ”says Seikkula.

According to Seikkula, the Finnish art field is moving in the right direction, but even now it is not even close to achieving equality.

Another special feature of the Stockholm art field is Housing and renting situation that seems impossible in Sweden.

Artists can no longer afford rentals or access to facilities. That is why they have also become a matter of representation, Seikkula says.

Linnégatanin the old laundry room has a total of more than 500 square meters, divided into a gallery and artists ’workspaces. The size of the farm and its location in an expensive downtown area are quite significant from a Stockholm perspective.

The gallery side is currently empty. Over the past year, more than 50 artists have presented their work here. Next, the artist Alexandra Karpilovskin the exhibition opens on January 15th.

Bjäringer had access to the hall because a woman who understood art had to sit on the board of the housing association that owned the property, and there was no other use for the site. In addition, the gallery has received financial support from Svenska Kulturrådet.

When Bjäringer got the keys to the former laundromat in the early spring of 2020, he was the first to call a Finnish-born Palmqvist, whom he did not know before, but whose work he had admired.

In addition to Palmqvist, the space currently employs three other artists.

Artist Minna Palmqvist has moved her office to the Misschiefs Gallery. Artists do not pay rent for the premises.

In Åland born Palmqvist has studied design at Turku University of Applied Sciences. He moved to Stockholm 15 years ago to study textile design in Konstfack’s master’s program.

Palmqvist is an artist and fashion designer whose work has also been exhibited in Emma, ​​Espoo, for example in 2017. In her latest Under pressure collection, she looked at making art under pressure. The theme bent concretely on the garments that Palmqvist worked by mangling. These works were on display at the Misschiefs Gallery.

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According to Palmqvist, the artist’s work is often quite solitary. It creates competition and envy. That is why communal spaces like Misschiefs are needed.

According to Palmqvist, the atmosphere at Misschiefs is bjussig, meaning helpful, benevolent and considerate. When someone receives an award or honor for their work, it is celebrated together.

If the space is visited by a mansple, that is, an unsolicited guest lecturing on the subject, the artists warn each other with the security phrase “where the tape is”, “var är tejpen”.

However, the Misschiefs are open to everyone. Anyone can step in to see the art and the work of the artists.

Minna Palmqvist, an artist who grew up in Åland, has been involved in the activities of the gallery Misschiefs since the beginning. In her work, she combines fashion and art.

Palmqvist worked his first months in front of the gallery window. In the lively area, many stopped to watch.

According to Bjäringer, people in the Nordic countries are used to seeing only pre-packaged products. Whether it was a work of art, a bouquet of flowers or minced meat.

If you don’t see where the product comes from or how it’s made, the craftsmanship and author may be forgotten.

Misschiefsin the lease signed with Linnégatan in February 2020 was initially for three months. Since then, it has been extended for three months at a time. The situation in the gallery is therefore quite uncertain.

However, Bjäringer sees the gallery as an experiment. He is not worried about the future. The pandemic has emptied facilities in many large cities as companies have had to close or move to a telecommuting model. They should be filled with art, Bjäringer says.

There is room, it just needs to be put into use.

According to Minna Palmqvist, the atmosphere at Misschiefs Gallery is bjussig, meaning helpful, benevolent and considerate.

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