Ragnar Kjartansson: Scandinavian Pain at Moderna Museet, Malmö

A newly-built, full-scale barn enveloped by the pink haze of an eleven-metre long neon sign saying “Scandinavian Pain” meets visitors to the Turbine Hall at Moderna Museet Malmö. The work is by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, and inside the barn he has hung more than 40 works by the Norwegian national icon Edvard Munch. These two artists, melancholia and a pinch of hit music are the basic ingredients of this summer’s major exhibition at Moderna Museet Malmö.

From 3 May until 28 August, 28 galleries and art institutions in the City of Malmö have joined forces for a concerted focus on Nordic contemporary art, as part of Malmö Nordic 2013. Under the aegis of this initiative, Moderna Museet Malmö will host a unique encounter between Ragnar Kjartansson and Edvard Munch, in the exhibition Scandinavian Pain.

In his paintings, drawings, videos, music and performances, Ragnar Kjartansson expresses a lyrical gloom combined with subtle humour. His performances involve identical actions being repeated over and over again, generating a situation that is both hopeless and comical. Scandinavian Pain is an eleven-metre long pink neon sign that Kjartansson first mounted on a barn roof for the Momentum biennial in 2006. Living in the barn for a week, he used images and actions to enact the stereotype of the suffering, Nordic artist.

His neon work now belongs to the Moderna Museet collection, and Kjartansson will be installing it on a newly-built barn inside Moderna Museet Malmö. Inside, some 40 works by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, famed for his angst-ridden, expressive images. In this way, Kjartansson hands over the role of suffering Nordic artist to Munch. Ragnar Kjartansson will be present in various ways at the exhibition, and it is likely that Edvard Munch will appear in a different light.

Ragnar Kjartansson: Scandinavian Pain, 3 May until 28 August, Moderna Museet Malmö, Gasverksgatan 22, SE-211 29 Malmö, Sweden. www.modernamuseet.se

1. Ragnar Kjartansson, Scandinavian Pain (Neon) © Ragnar Kjartansson, i8 gallery and Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York.