A painting on a brick wall.

The Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency

Magnus Mattsson has curated a collection of some 20 artworks for the Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency’s (TLV) premises in Stockholm. The collection comprises sculptures, paintings, graphic art, craft and installations. For his selection, Magnus has attempted to capture a sense of science and medicine, which can be related to TLV’s activities. The collection is dominated by graphic art with several contrast-rich and abstract works and with some pauses, such as Joakim Ojanen’s expressive, hand-modelled sculpture installed in the entrance.

Magnus has planned the collection so that the pieces should work with one another, fit into the physical environment as well as into the overall context of what TLV is and does. He makes a plan for the hanging but regards it more as a guideline than something he has to slavishly conform to. When the hanging begins, unexpected things always occur – walls that turn out to be of glass or power points or electric cable ducts just where he had planned to hang a work. This is when one has to be creative and adapt to the new conditions:

“Visiting TLV’s newly renovated premises with the art in mind is an exciting adventure. Many of the art collection’s spatial encounters have so far only taken place in my imagination. Last time I visited, building work was going on, and a lot of decisions regarding colour schemes and material were yet to be taken. It was not even decided where the walls would be. Hanging art is like a live improvisation with some pre-thought-out keys. The rooms speak to me and choose the artworks themselves, we argue for a while until we reach an understanding, as how to prioritise and share the artworks,” Magnus explains.

TLV’s premises are located in the Trygg-Hansa Building, designed by Anders Tengbom and Stefan Salamon and erected in the mid-1970s. The building is now listed by Stockholm City Museum and much of the original interior design remains: dark brick walls and pillars, ceilings with multiple rows of aluminium profiles, as well as the open space at the entrance, which extends all the way to the top-floor ceiling. In the large, spacious entrance there is a site-specific work from the time of the building’s construction. The work extends over several floors, almost from the top-floor ceiling down to the basement level, and is designed as a folded map or perhaps a cave wall. Along the wall, trickles of water run down to green plants in a paved pond. In the course of the process, Magnus has related to this wall, without knowing who had designed it. Much later, during the research for the inauguration of the collection, it came to light that the artwork was designed by Leif Bolter and Björn S. Jonsson, the latter of whom was actually represented in Magnus’ collection for TLV by a painting. A rather incredible coincidence as Magnus had discovered the painting among the artworks that had been returned to Public Art Agency Sweden earlier in the year. While hanging the collection he had no idea that it had such a strong connection to the building. “It was as if it wanted to go there.”

Visitors to TLV will immediately encounter this environment, which also continues up into TLV’s entrance where the first work in the collection is to be found. It is an installation by Slobodan Zivic, which comprises a visual work as well as a sound piece, developed in collaboration with Johan Karlsson, better known as Familjen (The Family). The sound work is an instrumental piece of music resembling a calm, electronic pulse. From the entrance, glass doors and a glass section lead to TLV’s own premises and a second hall, a meeting area with a coffee machine and several doors to conference rooms. These premises are newly renovated in white with a dark green stone floor and a wall in various shades of green and blue.

In the hall, we encounter Joakim Ojanen’s sculpture Måndag hela veckan (Monday All Week Long) and J-E Frisendahl’s painting Måltavla (Target). Ojanen’s sculpture is composed of several ceramic figures that demonstrate a wide variety of emotions, as if it portrays different sides and moods of a single person. The figures are placed in a wooden box, reminiscent of a transportation box for art. Here, they all have their private rooms, as the box is divided like a pill organiser with an emotional expression in each compartment.

In the conference rooms in the public part of TLV’s premises, Magnus has selected colour schemes and motifs that have a direct connection to the spaces and a symbolic connection to the production of medicine; depictions of various types of plants whose colours harmonise with the interior design. On the same theme, there is also a work by CO Hultén that depicts a snake: the symbol of medicine.

Here, outside in the corridor, one finds Cecilia Darle’s photographic series comprising numerous images of condensation trails, formed in the sky by aeroplanes. The photographs have been installed in such a manner that the trails line up from one image to another, which creates an asymmetric hanging, even though the motifs are in line with one another.

Further into the premises, in one of the corridors, we find Darle’s installation Litet skalv (Small Quake), a work that extends along the walls of the corridor. The work is composed of various parts, all following a line, a crack. The crack extends across the surface, through various quotidian objects such as a cup and via paper. Darle invites us to follow her in the linear examination of small details, which otherwise may have disappeared into the periphery of everyday life.

In TLV’s library, Magnus has employed some of the posters purchased by the agency, and hung them in conjunction with two artworks by Beck & Jung. The posters, which already hang in the room, are from Moderna Museet’s exhibition of Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), a “pioneer of abstraction” as she is described in the exhibition title. Beck & Jung were also pioneers in their field, data and digital prints, active some 100 years after the birth of Hilma af Klint. In the library, there is a meeting between the artistic innovators, those who dared to challenge norms and break new ground.