Late last summer, Stureplansgruppen opened their boutique Bank Hotel. The emphasis on food and drink in the form of restaurants and bars Bonnie’s, Sophie’s and Papillon has made it a natural destination for Stockholmers as well as for visiting out-of-towners, and the missing piece in the jigsaw was added this spring in the form of the Bank Art Space, located in the old bank vault. As an opening salvo, the Art Space is exhibiting the innovative, rich and bold work of some of Sweden’s most acclaimed fashion photographers – artists working for the world’s biggest fashion houses and fashion media outlets, when not highlighted in bank vaults or on these pages. The fashion photography on display mirrors Sweden’s history while expressing its ideals in a fascinating way. The show, as well as the future exhibitions at Bank Art Space, is curated by CFHILL, and their co-founder Michael Elmenbeck was kind enough to share his thoughts on the spectacle.
As curators for this and the future exhibitions at the Bank Art Space, was it obvious to lead off with Swedish Fashion Photography as the first exhibition, and what lead to that decision?
I wanted the premiere exhibition to reflect the idea of the hotel and the Art Space. To be local and at the same time global, as it often is with great hotels. But to also highlight the fact that we not only have a Swedish Fashion or Music or Tech phenomena, but are also pioneers when it comes to Fashion Photography. All these photographers work internationally, have front covers and shoot supermodels and movie stars, but they are also very Swedish in that way you can see the clear references [in their work], from Bergman to the strong independent women. I want this show to both inspire and inform both locals and international visitors, to find out Sweden has produced amazing fashion photography for over 70 years, and still does.
There are many prominent names within Swedish fashion photography and many of the names included in the exhibition have great bodies of work. So how did the selection process go, both in terms of what artists to include, but also regarding what images to exhibit?
Having hundreds of amazing photographers and endless thousands of images to choose from, this was obviously a challenge. Some of the names were obvious, others I included because they were right for the mix and for this location. Once I did my first selection of favourites, I spoke to the photographers and hoped they wanted to be part of and support this with their best images. Luckily all our names agreed to participate and include these unique works.
Were you at all aiming to have some sort of common thread going through the exhibition or are the artists and the works themselves selected from an individual standpoint?
I wanted all the works to be stand-alone images and be representative for their photographic style. So the thread is both the Swedish coolness and also the iconic feel of the single image. But I also wanted to show how Swedish fashion photography has developed over these 70 years. From Georg Oddner’s vintage prints of women wearing clothes in a very casual way to Camilla Åkran’s strong graphic images where lights and make up and the selection of model is what makes the image.
How does Swedish fashion photography compare internationally and how well-regarded would you say these Swedish photographers are within the industry?
I would say they are more in-demand than ever. These names and many more are regarded as hard workers with modern values and are usually based in global cities making them easy to work with. Also having a superstar like Mikael Jansson obviously opens doors for many new names coming from Sweden. We could have done a show with only images from 2018-19, and these walls would have been covered with cover images from the most prestigious outlets, the biggest campaigns and the most sought after celebrities. So yes, they are really doing well.
And finally, what are your plans and ambitions with Bank Hotel’s Art Space and could you provide some insight into the Art Space’s near future?
The idea for us and Bank Hotel is to make the Art Space into a local and global destination. It’s open daily and with the most generous opening times! Curatorially, we want to be progressive and continue to show the best from Sweden but also what’s most exciting from other parts of the world. Being an Art Space means we don’t represent any artists – so anything is possible. The next show is still a secret, but for us art could be anything that is artistic and at the highest level: paintings, fashion, sculptures, culture in any form.
SHOTS FROM THE SHOW
Elisabeth Toll – White Dress (2013)
Taken in Lanzarote. The thing I liked about this was the unbroken middle line, which becomes like a timeline she dances along. I strove for the contrast between the clean, flawless girl and the brutal mountain landscape, a union of the tamed and untamed. Taken for a German fashion client.
Camilla Åkrans – Grace in Water 1
The inspiration for the series Grace In Water comes from the portrayal of the four elements, where the water in the series manifests as something cleanly sensual as well as the source for life. What I want to achieve with my photography is to portray women from a female perspective, but on the woman’s terms.
Mikael Jansson – Tatjana (1994)
The photo of Tatjana was taken in Morocco in 1994 for French Vogue. We sat on the balcony of our hotel in Marrakech to do hair and make-up the morning we began the day’s photographing. Tatjana sat on a plastic chair, with a cigarette in her hand, and when the make-up artist turned away to get something, I took a polaroid. The was ‘the shot’. Shot on Pentax 6×7 with a scratched Polaroid back panel against a balcony wall. Creating an image is often about observing and capturing the moment.
Swedish Fashion Photography 1952-2019 is on display until May 19. Bank Art Space, Arsenalsgatan 6
Main photo: Andreas Kock, Stalker series