Category Archives: Culture

…writing, art at home…

I am forever lost in the world of Art. In so many ways. And I love it. Just like Dante’s alter ego in The Divine Comedy’s opening lines of Purgatory, I find myself lost. He found himself lost among the tall, dark trees, lost in his middle age. I, on the other hand, find myself lost among paintings, ink sketches, water colours, reference books, auction house catalogues, antiques, artist biographies. It is a fantastic way of being lost, since the feeling makes me search and explore. I want to learn more, see more, find more. Ponder on what art and beauty gives us. On what it means. Revel in being adrift on the sea of fine arts.

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A small part of the reference library in my study. I can’t function without these books.

Having spent a fair amount of time writing a two-part article on art for a recently started magazine, I got thinking on what kind of art I surround myself with. What am I looking at when I’m at home? When walking through a corridor, walking out of the bedroom, sitting at my desk? What am I dreaming of acquiring to hang on my walls? To someone like myself even, who spends his life in the fine arts, it can easily become just a fascination. The hunt for another object or more knowledge on art becomes a way of life. It is easy to forget what’s around you.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

When working, I don’t have any big paintings hanging around me. Just the books on the shelves in the study. They supply me with over 100,000 pictures if needed. Whichever period of art, whichever architectural movement, I can find something on most topics among all the books. But as a reminder of previous periods in life, I have two small postcards stuck to the window-frame. One of Paris, by van Gogh, and one of Amsterdam painted by Monet. The postcard over London, what feels like my second home town, has disappeared in a recent move.

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At times the personal has to come before professional pride. Also for an antiques dealer and art historian.

One of my favourite periods of art is Early Romanticism. It’s stretching from about 1790 until the late 1830s. It was a great period for Northern European artists travelling to the southern parts of Europe. There they learnt to handle light, shades, and got the oportunity to learn from the old masters visiting museums. The water colour became a medium for professional artists as well as for amateurs. Up until now it had not been an accepted medium for professionals. This makes the late Regency period, also called Empire and Biedermeier style in interior design and pictorial arts, very interesting. It is today possible to buy high quality water colours from the years around 1800 for almost nothing. Quite incredible really, but the style isn’t very fashionable for the moment. It was up until ten years ago. And will soon be again. For sure.

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Another favourite is this little adorable cherub by Johan Gustaf Köhler, painted in Munich in 1836. He was Carl Larsson’s teacher in sketching at the Academy.

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Water colour from 1806, painted by Sophie Tersmeden, hanging in the bedroom.

So what is someone like me dreaming of? Oh, a lot of things. But a few weeks ago I found a painting I felt I could not live without. But I forgot about the auction, and I guess that was just as well. The painting didn’t sell cheap. It was a beautiful oil painting of a passage under Colosseum in Rome, painted around 1815 by the father of the Danish “Golden Age”, C. W. Eckersberg. It sold for €24,000 which meant it almost doubled the asking-price. If I’d only had the money, and remembered the auction,  the painting would be hanging in my dining room now. I know the perfect wall! But until I have the oportunity to buy that kind of art, I will carry on leafing through my books for more knowledge and constant inspiration.

The latest in a pile of inspirational reads, "Ann Getty: Interior Style"

The latest book in the huge pile of inspirational reads, “Ann Getty: Interior Style”

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Filed under Antiques, Art, Auction Houses, Culture

”It has to happen now, or I don’t give a f**k…”

It’s early in the morning and I’m sat on the train. Just under three hours ahead of me before I reach Göteborg. Normally it’s quite a droll, but this morning I’m eavesdropping on a few retired train drivers discussing the state of the world and the development of our society. Their rural mentality might not impress me overly, but there has been a few good points. Intrestingly enough, they’ve been similar to the ones presented in the cultural section of today’s Svenska Dagbladet. I’m not yet sure what that says about Svenska Dagbladet and their reporters. Nor what it sais about me critizising the ”rural mentality” of the ex train drivers. Maybe their hands-on way of life is actually the healtier alternative.

Nevertheless, the thoughts their discussion has given rise to are on the need for instant results and immediate satisfaction in todays younger generation. A generation I’m part of, too, I might add. The generation of smart phones, Google, Facebook, Twitter and reality TV. The generation that prides itself of not having the time to read a book cover to cover, where it is cool to party ’till five in the morning and then be at the law firm or meeting a presumptive PA at six-thirty, ”tweeting” away to all ones followers  (what was once called ”friends”) in the cyber reality about how trashed and hungover one is while trying to get ones act together in a bathroom at a Starbucks. This is the generation where a long process, preparation and serious commitment is not worthwhile since it is too boring to wait for a result that might take longer than a week to get. This is a generation where platitudes like ”Oh, I’m sooo in to contemporary art and 21st century design” really means ”I looked at the picturs in the latest issue of Vanity Fair and, actually, read some of the text too!” When these are the people that will govern our countries in the future, no wonder the privatisation will continue being at the top of the agenda.

The problem is when this way of thinking amalgamates with the serious questioning of values, ideas, principles. The questioning is at the core of all serious cultural debate. Regardless if it’s seen as highbrow or not. The debate concerning the future of the Arts and humanities need a longterm analysis, a longterm plan and people comitted to being comitted. The Arts need people who are prepared to spend time reading, writing, taking in ideas new and old, cogitate, ponder, suggest. I am not as naive as suggesting the intelectual cafés’ of  1960s Paris ought to return with Sartre-like followers taking the lead, but they had a place then and something similar might have a place today. Resulting articles and papers being discussed widely ought to be part of the societies curriculum. Schools all over Europe have started giving classes in Rhetoric since it is important for the young generations to learn how to advocate a view in today’s individualistic society. That’s all good and sound. But, I wonder, how come it is important to advocate if you have no tools to analyse with and to reach a view to advocate for? Is it sound to be able to shout just for the cause of shouting? Not likely.

Since I am the one writing this, the focus is obviously the debate on the Arts. There are numerous examples I hope to be able to write about where the lack of cultural detabe have resluted in disaster for small theaters, opera companies, book publishers, buildings of importance (though not to the State) and so forth. Though for now, my question is if we are prepared to live in a ”quick fix” world where nothing, least of all the so called “intellectual” questions and thoughts, is allowed to take time and be given space. With the rife mindset of today it is as if we say; if it’s not instant success, it’s worthless. And I wonder, is that really true?

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Filed under 80-talister, Art, Contemporary Art, Culture, Instant success, Literature, Preservationist, Young generation

Pink defines the modern man

Apart from the fact that Lisa Burnbach stated in her bible from 1980, The Official Preppy Handbook, that “…The classic shirt is the Brooks Brothers button-down all-cotton oxford cloth shirt. Pink is the most famous color, and it is widely supposed that no one except Brooks has ever been able to achieve that perfect pink or that perfect roll to the collar…” I have always loved pink on leisure and dress shirts, polos, shorts. There has often been discussions amongst the non-pink wearing community that it is simply unmanly, childish, girly. But it isn’t. It is a traditional colour worn by generations of males, if from a somewhat selective and narrow walk of society, and all denigratory comments should be held back promptly. The toff reputation isn’t necessarily true either, but that is something which seems harder to kill off. However, I must say I find it fascinating that a shirt colour can generate such a big divide amid the shirt wearers in general.

After having read an article the other day on the subject of why some men wear pink shirts and some refuses to, it got me thinking. Why do I wear it? Is it simply because I like it? Is it because it defines me? Is it as a social status marker? Is it because I want to go against the general stream of boring clothes-wearers and therefore define my self by wearing pink? Or is it all of the above?
Probably. It is most likely a mixture. When I look into my wardrobe I can see at least a fifth of my shirts and polos’ (and that, dear readers, is quite a substantial number of shirts) being either entirely pink, checkered with different colours or striped. And for me I gather the most important thing about wearing pink is that it looks good. No more, no less. If you are beautifully tanned in the summer, apart from white hardly any other colour is more likely to enhance your tan in an amazing way.

In the autumn, the most stunning colour combinations can be created with a dash of pink. It makes your outfit look interesting, stylish, thought through and intelligently chosen if done right.


Pink simply is the best alternative to black. I won’t say it’s the new black, because it isn’t and never will be, but it is a colour which should be worn with respect and maybe an ounce of cockiness. Regardless of which signals you think it sends out to your friends and colleagues, make it send the signals you want it to send. Make it a personal statement without being fake.

And as mentioned above, pink worn in the summer simply can’t go wrong if you have a bit of a tan to sport.

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Filed under Bespoke, British Fashion, Culture, GANT, Gents Fashion, Hackett, Pink Shirts, Preppy Look, Ralph Lauren, University Look

European governments try suffocating the Arts

As the wave of new liberal governments are blowing strong over Europe certain areas seems to be harder hit than others. The Arts are not appreciated, artists are expected to work more and more for free or look on their profession as a “normal business”, opera houses and orchestras are being forced to close down and hundreds upon hundreds of top class performers are facing a dire future with unemployment and no pensions. The Swedish government, until a few years ago a forerunner of social equality and blind support of the Arts, will be presented with a research paper, put together by the in Scandinavia important Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, proposing that the student funding and student loans for Art educations should be heavily cut or scrapped altogether for some courses due to artists struggle later in life to get work.
This is mild compared to the Netherlands where, late last year, the influential leader of The Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, proposed a cut in the culture budget from current €800m to €200m starting as early as 2012/2013. This has created an outrage among artists and intellectuals in the BeNeLux countries with protest marches and group actions on social networking sites. What the result will be is not yet totally clear, but the cuts seems to go through, if not as heavy as initially suggested. There is still some voting to be done, but it does not look promising. The government in the Netherlands has also decided to go their own way in how the cuts will effect the major art institutions. Bigger and, it has to be said, more important world class institutions like De Nederlandse Opera and The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will hardly feel the hit with minimal cuts while smaller, still top class, institutions like the Nationale Reisopera, the foremost touring opera company in the Netherlands, and some provincial orchestras will face cuts of up to 60% percent in their budgets. That activities could go on like before is hardly possible. Theaters and orchestras employing hundreds of singers, instrumentalists, administrative and other staff will have to change their company strategy and let most people in full-time positions go and then heavily rely on freelancers. But where will the freelancers come from in ten years if there are no smaller companies where to start a carreer? As Guus Mostart, current Intendant at Nationale Reisopera put it in an article in the Guardian UK the other day, “the loss of smaller companies who support younger artists and young composers is even more worrying than what’s happening at the bigger companies. They are the breeding ground for the future of music.” This is something we have to bare in mind.


So why this tendency? Why does the Arts scare governments like never before? Nothing major has changed in how it is performed, nothing is significantly different from, say, 1993. It looks more like the general political climate has changed, and thereby the way political parties and governments look at the Arts and how it should be funded. The last ten years or so governments have started to talk about theaters, opera houses and orchestras in terms of “businesses” and that they have to start re-evaluating their “company and corporate structures”. But these are not terms applicable to major Art institutions. They never have been and never will be. Would anyone pay €1800 for a night at the opera? Probably not. €985 for a concert of Adés and Stravinsky? Hardly anyone. Not even three hundred years ago was it possible. That’s why there were private patrons, supporting the Arts and its artists. The system of private and corporate sponsors is well developed in the USA (with numerous downsides to it too, it has to be said, but more on that in another post) and the UK has done a pretty good job at introducing it to their art institutions with tax relief etc. The rest of Europe seems helplessly behind, fumbling in the dark simply applying the cuts without having a complementary system in place.

When politicians complain that the Arts are expensive, they are right. Opera is one of the most expensive art forms in the world. Keeping a museum like the Louvre in Paris is an enormous burden on the state finances. But the art is what defines us as countries. The different styles, free ideas and creative minds is what have, and still in this moment are, making our society move forward. We need the Arts, in all its various forms and shapes. We need them to provoke us, to give us new ideas, to give us an alternative universe where we can taste another era, another time. Where we can escape. If the politicians aren’t prepared to take their responsibility, invested in them by us in democratic trust, we will have a very bleak future to look forward to.

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Filed under Arts Funding Cuts Europe, Arts Funding Cuts Netherlands, Culture