Case Study: Paul McCarthy Retrospective at Moderna Museet
Paul McCarthy

Retrospective at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
June 17 - September 3, 2006

On June 17, 2006, Moderna Museet in Stockholm opened its largest one-person show ever, a Paul McCarthy retrospective spanning 40 years of the artist’s career, from 1966 to the present. The survey, entitled Paul McCarthy: Head Shop/Shop Head, was curated by Magnus af Petersens, who is responsible for the film and video collection at the museum. One of the most comprehensive retrospectives of McCarthy’s works ever organized, the exhibition included the artist’s major large-scale multi-media installations as well as sculptures, photographs and single-channel video works. The single-channel works were displayed on monitors in The Guard House, a separate exhibition space adjacent to the museum, on three computer screens in The Studio, which is the museum's study center, and in screening programs that were projected in large format in the cinema. A 168-page, illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition, which ran until September 3, 2006. Paul McCarthy: Head Shop/Shop Head will tour to ARos Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (February 3 - May 6, 2007) and S.M.A.K., Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium (October 17, 2007 – February 17, 2008).

The following case study, conducted by Elna Svenle, follows the planning process of this major retrospective prior to its opening.

Moderna Museet

The museum opened in May 1958. Its first venue was the Swedish navy's former drill house, located on the island of Skeppsholmen in Stockholm (the building where the Museum of Architecture can be found today). The legendary exhibitions of the 1960s, organized under the direction of Pontus Hultén, made modern art famous in Sweden and the museum an important institution internationally. The collection grew quickly, mainly with works of the contemporary avant-garde. In 1975 an additional building was opened to house the increasingly large collection, but before long even this expansion proved too small. In 1989 an architectural competition was announced to develop a design for a completely new museum. Spanish architect Rafael Moneo won, and the new Moderna Museet was inaugurated in 1998. Three years later this building proved to be hazardous to the staff, audience, and collection due to mold in the ventilation. The building was closed and refurbished. On February 14, 2004 the museum reopened, and has ever since been admission free. As a result, visitor numbers have increased dramatically to as many as 750,000 during the first year. The total exhibition space is 5,000 square meters (53,800 square feet).

The Interviewees

Magnus af Petersens works in the Exhibitions & Collection department at Modern Museet as the curator of film and video. He has worked at Moderna Museet since 2002. His largest previous project at the museum was Fashination, a show about the border between fashion and art. Before starting at Moderna Museet, af Petersens was a curator at Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, an institution that produces touring exhibitions with Swedish and international artists. Before that af Petersens held a part-time assistant position at Moderna Museet as well as a full-time position at Färgfabriken in Stockholm, which he co-founded.

Ulf Eriksson works in the Education & Events department and has worked at Moderna Museet since 2001. He started at the museum as an events producer, organizing seminars, panel discussions and artist talks. Later he became involved in creating an educational project called Zon Moderna, in which teenagers and artists work together. During the last year Eriksson has mainly worked with audio guides and e-learning, creating courses in art history for adults. Before starting at Moderna Museet, Eriksson was responsible for education and public relations at the Uppsala Art Museum in Sweden.