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Anna Hesselbom, of the Swedish Association for Art, gets excited about their prospect of providing young people with a platform where they can get inspired about the arts. Artworks salutes their work and tuned in for a chat.

5 min read

185 years ago, Swedish Association for Art (“SAK”) was established as a result of the frustration among artists and art connoisseurs with the contemporary art scene and the almost non-existing possibilities for artists to exhibit and meet its audience. 

Since then SAK has supported the Swedish contemporary art scene by purchasing works of art for the annual lottery, arranging exhibitions and presenting interesting contemporary artistries in our member’s magazine and yearbook. As well as educating the general public about the importance of the arts to enrich everyday life.

Thanks for your time Anna, please tell us about yourself and what you do at SAK?

I have been with SAK for a little over a year. As a part of a small team, we all do all sorts of things, such as arranging exhibitions and events, writing for the member’s magazine, communicating with both members and press and all things high and low in the day-to-day operation. Personally, I have a strong interest in SAK’s long history.

I'm also excited about our project SAK UNG for younger people, primarily between the ages of 18 to 25. It’s a nationwide project to engage young people in contemporary art, to create a platform in which to meet and take part of the art scene in their respective part of the country. 

You're very busy these days, you have two ongoing shows. What could you tell us quickly about them, what are you exhibiting and why?

The group show ”TILL KONSTEN - TRO, HOPP, TVIVEL OCH KÄRLEK” presents 120 works of art by 22 contemporary artists, making up the prizes in this year’s art lottery taking place 23 November. The exhibition is a chance to see the 120 works and especially a unique series of works by the artist duo Tilpo. This year’s first prize is Axel Lieber’s work ”Min konstruktiva vardag (House of Pain and Colours).

ELASTER is a two-person exhibition with Liva Isakson Lundin and Joakim Heidvall, whose works are simultaneously exhibited in SAK’s annual exhibition, presenting large-scale works in dialogue on common theme of elasticity. Liva Isakson Lundin shows her new work ”Peel, Shear, Tensile", balancing acts in glass and silicone. Joakim Heidvall’s series ”Corona” are paintings in the borderland between the figurative and the abstract, never before shown in Sweden. 

For the annual lottery, it’s a fine line-up of contemporary artists. What does the selection process look like?

The prizes for the lottery are selected by our purchasing committee consisting of SAK’s director Jennie Fahlström, museum curators and artists. Between them they have a great knowledge and a good overview of the art scene and what’s going on, in artist studios, art hubs and galleries all over the country. Each year, the committee purchase art for up to a million Swedish kronors from emerging artists as well as their established colleagues, across all kinds of media.

So are the works on display available for sale?

The works presented at the lottery prize show are not for sale. But for a very reasonable amount of money, everyone can become a member and have the chance to win one of the art works. And the 20 first winners get to choose their favourite among the work in ranking order.

This year, we also present the two-person exhibition “ELASTER”, with Liva Isakson Lundin and Joakim Heidvall in which all works are for sale. This exhibition is a way for us to highlight two interesting artistries and also to celebrate that we’ve been around for 185 years and to pick up the thread from SAK’s long history of arranging exhibitions with contemporary artists in Sweden. 

What do you do broaden the appetite for art?

As we spoke about, we are excited to welcome anyone with an interest in the arts. We also try to stay contemporary and interesting, to produce an engaging and relevant year book and member’s magazine, organise program activities such as artist talks and studio visits. 

From this year, the yearbook has a new set-up, consisting of texts by a varied set of writers, art historians, artists, curators writing about the artists selected for the lottery. This is a way of approaching art from different perspectives and presenting the artists. 

We also collaborate with some of the most interesting artists in Sweden with SAK Edition, a limited series exclusively produced for SAK’s members, which is a way of buying high quality art at a relatively affordable price.

Why is art not as everyday as for instance music or interior design?

I guess there’s a preconceived notion that contemporary art is hard to understand and not as approachable, which is unfortunate. It’s all a question of going to a lot of shows, taking part in program activities and reading up on the subject. 

My experience is that artists are often happy to talk about their work and that galleries and art centres are very open and approachable and often have free admission. 

The fact that there’s not as much press coverage in the daily newspapers is perhaps also an explanation.

As an independent art association, you are open to everyone with an interest in the arts. Who are your members and how much are they growing?

We have members all over the country, young and old all with a common interest in the arts and in many cases an expressed will to support the art scene. Many have a keen or budding interest but are not sure where to start. We believe SAK can be a link between the art scene and the public and provide and a way of gaining an overview of the art scene.