Stockholm’s National Gallery re-opened in October after a huge renovation supervised by Swedish architects, Gert Wingard and Erik Wikerstal; the gallery had been closed to the public since 2013 and the cost of the refurb was 1.2 billion Swedish crowns around £100 million sterling. I was fond of the old gallery but it was definitely starting to look a little dated and tired around the edges and I was curious to see what had been done. I was in Stockholm last month for a weekend visit and popped in.
Wow, what a breath of fresh air! The sweeping staircase, with the Carl Larsson memorials, leading to the entrance hall, looks much the same but fresher but otherwise what a change. The ground floor has evolved with the introduction of a new lecture hall and a sculpture garden reminiscent of that at the Louvre (albeit a little smaller); light pours in through the new ceiling comprised of small glass pyramids.
Upstairs, the walls in many of the exhibition rooms are brightly painted with vibrant blues, yellows and reds but this works well set against the elegant whitish greys of the marble columns and the vaulted ceilings. The hanging is chronological but also thematic- so you have Swedish National Romantic painters in area and Napoleonic art in another. Furniture and objets d’art art effectively mixed with paintings.
After or before your museum visit you can relax an exceptionally beautifully designed restaurant with sleek wooden dining tables, exquisite parquet floors and fabulous lighting (10 designers designed glass globes for a splendid chandelier)- a great place to have an open sandwich and a coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening.
The museum can now exhibit 5,200 objects around three times as many as they could before the renovation. It is lighter, more spacious and airy, beautifully designed and is a museum of the twenty first century to compete on a world scale. I will be back and soon.
Last week I had dinner at Aster, a Nordic restaurant in Victoria that I have been meaning to try ever since it opened, coming up for 2 years ago now. The chef is Finnish and I had been informed the food was Finnish but the menu felt more Scandinavian/Baltic with a modern European twist than pure Finnish.
The rye bread which we were served shortly after our arrival was delicious- warm and with salty butter, I could easily have eaten the whole bowl. It was also available for sale in their delicatessen, adjoining the restaurant, although, being evening, this was closed when we were there. My cured salmon was not the best I have eaten but tasty enough and the seabream I had to follow was perfectly cooked with a delicious fennel and dill salad. My Finnish mother loved her North Atlantic fish pie.
The restaurant felt a little bit cold and lacking in atmosphere and slightly corporate hotel like to me, although to be fair we were there on a Monday evening which is their quietest day of the week. The staff on the other hand were exceptionally friendly and also appeared genuinely interested in the restaurant and the food that they were serving (which doesn’t always happen). One of the waiters showed me round and I very much liked the 2 private rooms with their sleek wooden panelling and low ambient lighting.
I wouldn’t make a journey back especially but certainly if I am in the area (and I am hoping to see hit musical, Hamilton) just round the corner, I would pop in for a drink or dinner.
Went to the Danish Embassy in London for a talk on Scandinavian design combined with a viewing of highlights of Danish auction house, Rasmussen‘s autumn sale. The talk was mainly about chairs (this may sound weird but the Danes are famous for their beautiful furniture design and Danish mid twentieth century furniture is now highly collectable); it is fascinating how the politics of the twentieth century influenced art- Sweden who had a Socialist government from the 1930s right up until 1976 were producing industrial produced furniture for the masses, Denmark by contrast were creating exquisite hand crafted chairs that were expensive but made to last. Finland, independent from Russia since 1917, were creating wonderful free-flowing curved designs in their furniture (think of Alvaro Aalto).
Rasmussen had a few items of furniture and several paintings on display including quite a few abstract oil paintings by artists belonging to the Danish CoBrA movement founded after World War II. I however, leaned towards the earlier works particularly one beautiful eighteenth century drawing. Maybe it will be a Christmas present to myself….
Had breakfast today at my absolute favourite hotel in Stockholm, the wonderful Ett Hem- a little gem hidden away on an unassuming street in the Lärkstaden area of Stockholm. This twelve room hotel, which opened in 2012, is housed in an elegant red brick early twentieth century town house. The design, by half Dane, Ilse Crawford, is exceptional, with every detail carefully thought through- modern and exciting Scandinavian lighting, Gottland sheepskins casually thrown over pretty wooden Arts and Crafts chairs, handspun rugs, gorgeous vases from leading Swedish design firm, Svenskt Tenn and engaging contemporary art.
The staff are friendly and welcoming and the idea is is that you can relax on a sofa or armchair and have a glass of red wine or a cup of coffee and feel as though you were at home (an extremely elegant home). The concept works and it is a really special place to stay- I can’t recommend it enough.