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Jan Håfström, “A Work of Art is Nothing”

Stockholm, 1.10–7.11  2015

Galleri Andersson/Sandström are proud to for the first time present a solo exhibition by Jan Håfström; one of Sweden’s most significant artists. The exhibition A WORK OF ART IS NOTHING consists of new works where the mysterious Mr. Walker meets the contemporary art world, or exists in environments with clear links to literature or art history. Mr. Walker is a frequent recurring character in Håfström’s oeuvre, in both paintings as well as in sculptures.

Kit Walker is known as the cartoon character The Phantom’s alias, but he can equally be seen as Jan Håfström’s own alter ego. When Håfström was young, he often read The Phantom, and the impressions of these reading experiences have been merged with personal childhood memories and images of Håfström’s parents and grandparents. 

The Mr. Walker series thus can be regarded both as a symbol of a child’s escape from reality into a fictional world filled with heroes and villains, while it also thoughtfully comments our turbulent existence of today. The actual character of Mr. Walker can be interpreted as a critical questioning of today’s male role and ideals. How should a man be – lonely and quiet, or as a good, yet distanced citizen?

Many of Jan Håfström works are closely related to literature and memories of various books that has been important to him. Before commencing the University College of Arts and Crafts in Stockholm in 1963, Håfström studied philosophy and literary science at the University of Lund. Some of his constant sources of inspiration, a part from The Phantom, is Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. One specific artwork that always has fascinated him, which he also often returns to, is the painting Island of Death by Arnold Böcklin. Thoughts on time, and therefore death, are constantly present in Håfström’s oeuvre.

Jan Håfström is considered one of the country’s most prominent artists and has since his debut in 1966 held numerous exhibitions both in Sweden and internationally.
He has represented Sweden at the Venice Biennale four times: 1980 (together with Ola Billgren), 1990, 2003 and 2009. Håfström attended the start-up of PS1 in New York and has received a variety of prestigious prizes and awards including the Carnegie Art Award in 2001, the Swedish Visual Arts Fund in 2007 and City of Stockholm’s honorary award in 2009.

He is represented, among other places, at Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Gothenburg Art Museum, Astrup Faernely Museum, Hovikoddens Kunst and Heine-Onstad Kunst Center in Oslo, Kiasma in Helsinki, and the Museum of Art in Kiel and Lübeck.