The Public art Agency in Sweden

Public Art Agency Sweden (former The National Public Art Council Sweden) was founded in 1937 and is responsible to the Ministry of Culture.

The general assignment of Public Art Agency Sweden is to make art a natural and prominent feature in the community. The Council strives to create opportunities for contemporary art to impact on the public environment through projects for artistic embellishment and art collections produced for government authorities.

Since 1937, Public Art Agency Sweden, a government organisatin, has enriched the public domain with art and is Sweden’s largest commissioner of artistic embellishment. The Council commissions some 40 professional artists every year to present drafts and implement art projects. Most of these artists live and work in Sweden, but artists in other countries are also employed, thereby enhancing international contacts in the field.

Public Art Agency Sweden also puts together some 100 art collections annually, for various government organisations in Sweden and abroad. These collections reflect artistic production over the past decades and consist of both newly purchased and older works. In many cases, the artistic diversity of these collections makes them both unique and interesting in an art historical perspective.

In addition, as from 2010, Public Art Agency Sweden has been assigned by the government to collaborate with the Swedish National Heritage Board, Arkitekturmuseet and the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, along with relevant local municipalities and property owners, to distribute funding and implement projects for the artistic embellishment of public spaces not owned by the government. The purpose is to improve the quality of buildings and facilities, taking into consideration various perspectives and needs. Public Art Agency Sweden thereby earmarks funds that were previously reserved for art in non-government environments to enhance the overall design of public spaces, such as infrastructure, schools and housing areas. Special consideration will be given to the perspective of children and teenagers.

Information, education and development in the field of public artistic design and embellishment are used by Public Art Agency Sweden to raise awareness of how art contributes to a good social environment. Public Art Agency Sweden supervises the government organisations’ handling of government-owned art that is not maintained by other government organisations. This supervision activity instructs government organisations on procedures regarding the recording, annual inventory and day-to-day care of public art collections. It also advises property owners and other parties on the care and management of building-related art commissioned by Public Art Agency Sweden.

Art Lounge

At Public Art Agency Sweden’s Art Lounge visitors can access material by artists applying to the Council for commissions, and also read the Council’s annual catalogues and other publications. This material is intended primarily for Public Art Agency Sweden’s project managers in their search for artists for public commissions, but other parties looking for artists to execute public art assignments, and the general public, are welcome to study the work submitted by the artists. The Art Lounge also has a programme of activities, including seminars and discussions about art in the public sphere.

Art education

In 2010, our educational activities around art have included guided tours of public art, workshops at schools, lectures and artist talks. Seminars focusing on art and the public and art in the public sphere have been co-organised with regional and municipal organisations and other government organisations. Other commissioners of public art have also requested information about the working process at Public Art Agency Sweden, including discussions on art styles and the role of art in public spaces. Art education activities are primarily aimed at young people, but also, for instance, at interested staff in workplaces where a new permanent work of art or an art collection has been installed.

In 2010, workshops were held at Ekeskolan in Örebro for three groups of young adults with impaired vision, and for all pupils at Sameskolan in Karesuando (Year F-5). Guided tours and talks about art collections in workplaces have doubled since 2009 and numbered 35 in 2010.

For the third consecutive year, the KOP (Art and Public) network held an international conference, The Art of Having an Audience, at Moderna Museet in Stockholm on 19 – 21 May.

Public Art Agency’s art online

In 2010, Public Art Agency Sweden published an unprecedented amount of text and images relating to art and art projects on the internet, thanks to the integration of the Council’s internal system and a digitalised image archive. Web services such as Google Translate and Google Maps have continued to be useful in providing cost-effective and efficient web solutions. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are changing but are still relevant channels for the Council in our public outreach.

Images, image archives and copyright

Over the last few years, Public Art Agency Sweden’s visual documentation has developed more towards showing the works of art in their setting, together with the people who frequent it. Our analogue image archive was already digitalised, and in 2010 we made it accessible for internal use. In 2011, parts of the archive will be made available online.

Portfolio Project

Our portfolio presentations started during the Year of Multiculturalism in 2006, and made it possible for professional artists around Sweden to present their work to the Council’s project managers. The purpose of the Portfolio Project is to broaden the recruitment of artists for commissions from the Council. The purpose is also to achieve greater transparency in the Council’s operations by bringing more artists in contact with the Council. In April 2010, a portfolio presentation for artists was organised jointly with Kalmar Konstmuseum. 205 artists applied, and 95 artists from four counties presented their work. The portfolio presentations have led to a more open contact with artists throughout Sweden. 16 artists received new commissions from the Council thanks to the portfolio presentations, and some 30 works were purchased.

Finding more time for my tapestries – the closing of The Gallery By The River September 29.


Studio viewv5


The Gallery By The River opened in 2002 with the theme of presenting art by European and American artists. The current exhibition “Made In Sweden” is the seventh exhibition featuring artists living and working in Sweden and during this time more than forty Swedish artists have spent at least one year in working and preparing for this invitational event. The current exhibition “Made In Sweden” will be the last in this series and will also mark the closing of The Gallery By The River.

What is not generally known is that The Gallery By The River has established a reputation in Sweden as a welcoming and exciting place for artists to visit and to exhibit their work and each year brings more requests from artists who wish to showcase their work in the US. For many of our visiting artists, the publicity surrounding their exhibition here in Bellevue has resulted in a significant surge of interest in their work.

To all of our visitors I want to say thank you for your great interest and support. To our neighbors who have hosted and entertained the artists who have travelled from Sweden to be here at the opening reception, I wish to say a special word of thanks; without your help and support few of the artists could afford to stay here and enjoy that special day.

To my dear husband a special thanks. I can’t remember how many times he has painted the walls in the gallery so that they are fresh for the new exhibition, hung the artwork under the leadership of his wife, and been up on high ladders to adjust the lighting or changing bulbs; thank you Arthur.

For me, it has been an amazing and inspiring journey with the gallery. The contacts with the new artists must be made at least one year ahead of the opening of the exhibition and the preparations and logistics get underway in January to be ready for the June opening. When all the artwork is finally in place and we are ready to open the doors to our visitors, it is a privilege and great pleasure to be able to sit back and enjoy the beautiful art produced by the men and women of my home country.

The decision to close the gallery has not been easy, but I need more time to pursue my other vocation of designing and weaving large scale tapestries. As to the future I am hoping to always have new and exciting tapestries on the studio walls and something interesting in progress on the large loom with which to welcome visitors year-around by appointment.

Ulrika Leander

The Traditions of Swedish Hand-Woven Tapestry

Sweden has one of the longest unbroken and richly indigenous tapestry weave traditions in Europe. Hand weaving in Sweden, although having to struggle along with much of the rest of Europe, against competition from industrial looms, was always seen as part of the rich rural heritage of Sweden. It was particularly favoured for domestic use and young girls were taught from an early age to be proficient in the craft.

With the founding of the Handarbetets Vanner, or Friends of Handicraft in 1874 by Sophie Adlersparre, Molly Rohtlieb, and Hanna Mathilda Winge, three Swedish women who did much to integrate the old traditions of Swedish hand weaving and tapestry into the burgeoning interest shown largely by urban dwellers in fast disappearing rural crafts, through the Arts and Crafts movement.

It was seen by many that if a number of the traditional crafts were not encouraged, they would be lost forever. This was often problematic as many rural workers were drifting towards urban centres across Europe, as cities became a magnet for the ambitions of rural populations who were often disinclined to take up the labour intensive and badly paid traditional craft skills. Sweden, in the respect of rural crafts, was luckier than some of the more populous and intensely industrial countries in Western Europe. By the end of the nineteenth century, Sweden still had a relatively large rural community with few big industrial towns. However, it was still seen that the rural traditions that the Arts and Crafts movement supported and felt were vital to the integrity and future of the various different indigenous cultures of Europe, needed particular support and encouragement.

It is the interest in both the traditions of Sweden and its rural culture, but also that of the weaving tradition itself, which has kept hand weaving alive within Sweden. This has allowed a whole raft of individuals from professionals who used both hand and industrial weaving techniques, to the strictly hand weaving of the amateur. All have helped to produce and inspire work that has continued that tradition across the twentieth and into the twenty first century.

Tapestry project

The Burrell Collection Tapestries Project

Glasgow Museums

Sarah Foskett

Assistant Textile Conservator

On Monday 26th April, eight members of the tapestry Project visited Stirling Castle to see the Stirling Palace Tapestries. This is a unique project, launched in 2001 by Historic Scotland in partnership with the Quinque Foundation in the United States, to recreate a series of 7 medieval tapestries depicting the story of the Hunt of the Unicorn. The originals are held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the completed set of replicas will hang in the future presentation of the Queen’s Inner Hall. They are being woven by the renowned West Dean Tapestry Studio both at Stirling castle and at West Dean in the south of England.

Louise Martin, Head Weaver at Stirling Castle, first showed us the 4 completed tapestries currently hanging in the chapel. We were all completely taken aback at the first sight of them – the vibrancy of the colours, the clarity of the design and the subtlety of the detail were all hugely impressive. I think the impression had all the more impact as the team have spent the last 18 months photographing, assessing and handling historic tapestries and have become very familiar with the colour palette, texture, condition and fragility they present.

For me one of the most interesting aspects of The Stirling Palace Tapestries is the juxtaposition of the medieval, in terms of the image, and the contemporary, in terms of the colours and the condition. It was thought provoking on many levels and part of what makes it such an interesting project. Louise explained some of the background to the project, the reasons for the choice of the tapestry, and some of the many the challenges this unique project to contemporary weavers.

We then walked down to the purpose-built temporary studio in the Nether Bailey. Here, Louise explained in detail the process by which the original set are copied, the colours matched and the designs drawn up. Weaver Rudi Richardson, who was trying to do some work until we arrived, explained the practicalities and logistics of the weaving process and of working as part of a team. We pored over the woven samples, relishing the opportunity to discuss in detail techniques and effects we have seen in the Burrell Collection tapestries. It was both fascinating and hugely beneficial to our understanding of the techniques of construction to actually see the weaving in progress and talk in depth to the practitioners – we all had so many questions it must have been exhausting!

Louise and Rudi were so generous with their time and knowledge that the trip was a great success. I think each member of the team came away with something different from the experience but am sure that it has added a dimension to all of our knowledge and understanding of tapestries.

I wish we had gone sooner!

More about the Stirling Tapestries project, and the Palace Project as a whole can be found on the Stirling Castle website: