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Ragnar Kjartansson hangs works by Edvard Munch inside a barn at Moderna Museet
Installation view: Scandinavian Pain: Ragnar Kjartansson, Edvard Munch, Moderna Museet Malmö, 3 May-25 September 2013 © Photographer: Jan Pagh Hansen/Moderna Museet.

MALMO.- 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 to 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 hosts a unique encounter between Ragnar Kjartansson and Edvard Munch, in the exhibition Scandinavian Pain.

In his paintings, drawings, videos, music and performances, Ragnar Kjartansson (born 1976, in Reykjavík) 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 has installed it on a newly-built barn inside Moderna Museet Malmö. Inside, some 40 works by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), famed for his angst-ridden, expressive images. In this way, Kjartansson hands over the role of suffering Nordic artist to Munch. Ragnar Kjartansson is present in various ways at the exhibition, and it is likely that Edvard Munch will appear in a different light.

“Ragnar Kjartansson is a melancholy jester who gets us to see Edvard Munch with fresh eyes. He himself will be appearing on the evening of 2 May, in a performance of ABBA’s ‘The Winner Takes it All’ from 1980, which is about the divorce between Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog. Edvard Munch’s melancholia is alive, more than 80 years on, as manifested in ABBA’s sad farewell to one another,” says John Peter Nilsson, museum director of Moderna Museet Malmö, and curator of this exhibition.

A smaller presentation of works by John Melin – a pioneer in graphic design and an active visual artist – opened on the same date. The exhibition John Melin Exercices visuels focuses on Melin’s artistic oeuvre in the early 1980s. The exhibition is produced in association with Form/Design Center in Malmö, which is also hosting an exhibition that highlights John Melin’s graphic design.

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