No publicly financed museum in the world can afford to buy key works by artists such as Louise Bourgeois or Sigmar Polke, and that of course includes Moderna Museet. But friends like Anna-Stina and Gunnar make the impossible possible.
This quote from Daniel Birnbaum sums up the immense generosity of the art collectors Anna-Stina Malmborg and Gunnar Höglund towards Moderna Museet ever since the institution’s first years. Their relationship to the Museum actually began even earlier, with the presentation on Skeppsholmen in 1956 of Pablo Picasso’s famous painting Guernica (1937), painted in remembrance to the Basque city that was destroyed in the Spanish civil war. The young medical colleagues were there on a date, soon became a couple, and joined the Friends of Moderna Museet. The Friends were campaigning for a separate exhibition space for art made “today”, and the drill hall where Guernica was shown became the premises of Moderna Museet when it opened in 1958. Anna-Stina Malmborg was on the board of the Friends for 23 years, and was the chairperson for 12 years.
“Today” is a word that aptly describes what Malmborg-Höglund have accomplished as collectors, with their infallible feeling for the contemporary, without losing touch with history. The works that now belong to Moderna Museet thanks to them are there for posterity, and for everyone to enjoy. The development of art has provided, and continues to provide, direction for Anna-Stina Malmborg and Gunnar Höglund, and the works described here give a multifaceted picture of their long dedication to art.
Roman Notes (1970) by Cy Twombly (1928–2011) was purchased by Anna-Stina Malmborg straight from the artist in his studio in Rome in spring 1970. Twombly had just completed the paintings and was intending to give them to his brother, but changed his mind and sold them to her. In 2008, when Anna-Stina, a long-standing member of the Friends of Moderna Museet’s acquisitions committee, felt that the Friends were taking too long to acquire a Twombly, she simply donated the Roman Notes to the Museum.
Gunnar donated yet another work by Cy Twombly in 2014, Untitled, Bolsena (1969). This drawing was made in the summer and autumn the artist spent by lake Bolsena in northern Rome, in a large studio where he was engaged in several works simultaneously. Twombly was born in the USA but spent almost his entire adult life in Italy, where influences from antiquity, Michelangelo and the many varied regional landscapes were brought together in his oeuvre. The works may resemble distracted doodling, or a melancholic gesture in the face of the transience of everything. The same year, Anna-Stina donated a small white painting by Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) from the period: Concept of Space/Concetto Spaziale (1964). Like in several other works by Fontana, the canvas is perforated, but not by the slashes for which the artist had become known, as elegant as they were radical for the time, but by a round hole, as if torn open, in the middle of the gessoed canvas.
Paul McCarthy’s (b. 1945) Ketchup Sandwich (1970/2010). The installation and a number sketches by one of the most important artists of today, enfant terrible in a nation he criticises in grotesque games with icons from popular culture and pornographic implements, was featured in Moderna Museet’s major exhibition HEAD SHOP/SHOP HEAD in 2006 and acquired the same year. This marked the start of the foundation created in the name of Anna-Stina Malmborg and Gunnar Höglund for the acquisition of contemporary international art. The Gerhard Bonnier Foundation and the Friends of Moderna Museet also helped fund the purchase of Ketchup Sandwich, a minimalist cube consisting of glass sheets with layers of Heinz tomato ketchup squeezed in between them.
In 2015, the Museum was able to acquire several key works thanks to Anna-Stina Malmborg’s and Gunnar Höglund’s generosity. With a congenial financing – the couple sold off some of their own art collection to benefit the Moderna Museet collection and the Karolinska Institutet – Moderna Museet was able to buy works by a few of the world’s most interesting artists, including Louise Bourgeois’ Janus Fleuri, a hanging bronze sculpture of male and female genitals that appear to have imploded into what can only be compared to a new life-giving organ. Bourgeois has referred to the piece, which featured in the Museum's major exhibition Louise Bourgeois – I Have Been to Hell and Back in 2015, as a self-portrait.
From the well-attended exhibition Olafur Eliasson – Reality Machines in 2015, many will recall Eliasson’s (b. 1967) fascinating Model room, consisting of “models and prototypes in paper, cardboard, metal, wood, plastic, ceramics, lava stone, glass, light bulbs, table”, which welcomed visitors in the Moderna Museet foyer. Thanks to funding from the Anna-Stina Malmborg and Gunnar Höglund Foundation, the installation is now in the Museum’s collection, and is on display, with the objects rearranged, in the passage outside the rooms where the collection is presented.
Rose-Marie Trockel’s (b. 1952) After the Hunt, a three-by-three metre painting where the colour consists of wool yarn in forest-green, resembles a giant, hyper-realistic pot holder, in keeping with Trockel’s interest in low-status, everyday utensils. The work was shown in a presentation of the collection in 2016, in the same space as Günther Förg’s (1952–2013) twelve-metre long acrylic painting Coney Island. A photographic triptych by Jeff Wall (b. 1946), Staircase & Two Rooms, and a painting from the first year of the millennium, Untitled (2000), by the quirky, unorthodox pop artist Sigmar Polke (1941–2010) are other key works by prominent contemporary artists that the Museum has been able to acquire with funding from the Malmborg-Höglund couple. They have also contributed to the acquisition of works by artists such as such as Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Wolfgang Tillmans, Michel Majerus and Pierre Huyghe, to name a few others.
Anna-Stina Malmborg and Gunnar Höglund have hand-picked the works in their own collection with the knowledge and love of art that they have accumulated in half a century of travels, studies, studio visits and friendships with artists, gallerists and institutions. The historic and monetary value of their gifts to Moderna Museet cannot be over-estimated.