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Sven Harry's Museum - Business Traveller Mar0001

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Sven Harry's Museum - Business Traveller Mar0001

  1. 1. ven Hany Karlsson, now in his 82nd year, is a legend of the Swedish construction industry. As founder of building group Folkhem, his name is synonymous with dedication to craftsmanship and practical-yet- beautiful design. Yet,while building a career that's impressive by anybody's standards, for more than 35 years Sven Harry was quietly amassing one of the finest collections of 19th Century ordic Art globally. In true Scandinavian style, the pragmatic and socially conscious entrepreneur decided it was time to share his particular passion with his country.An ordinary man may have settled for an extra line in his will leaving the collection to the state. Not so Sven Harry. The charismatic and sprightly octogenarian, who has the energy and looks of a man 20 years younger, has never been one to do things by the book. SPOTLIGHT ON••• Sweden Sven Harry's, Konstmuseum rises from the ground amid the somewhat incongruous surroundings of Vasaparken (VasaPark) in Stockholm - a city which, until fairly recently, was off the map for most Gulf travellers, but is now served by direct flights from Emirates and Qatar Airways. The edifice is clad in gleaming brass, the same used to mint Sweden's Ten Kronor coins. A casual observer might be tempted to see the building as a glittering monument to free enterprise, or a latter day Nero's Golden Palace. Indeed, such accusations were levelled at Sven Harry when the building was unveiled in March 2011.The very concept appeared to fly in the face of Swedish sensibilities. After ail, this is a land that holds dear the notion of the collective being of far greater importance than any inclividual. Some of the more reactionary elements in the Swedish media went so far as to question what right one man had to build ~ MARCH 2014 37
  2. 2. SPOTLIGHT ON••• Sweden and enjoyed his collection and beautiful home in peace. Sven Harry has, in a sense, struggled all his life and while doing so constantly risen to and created new personal challenges. It would appear that his is a restless soul, perhaps made even more so by a difficult upbringing and fractious relationship with his father, the late Harry F.Karlsson, also a successful builder and property developer. Indeed, Karlsson Snr. .~~ •••••• was an avid art collector too and, despite a lack of closeness with his son, appears to have inspired an ingrained and intuitive...._-..•..•."""" ----'~~---------"""""" love of art. From an early age Sven Harry recalls being mesmerised by paintings that hung on the walls of the farnily home in Lund in the south of Sweden. This was no family idyll however. When he was eight years old, Karlsson's parents divorced and the young boy stayed with his father. On top of that, Sven Harry struggled with severe dyslexia at a time when the condition was little, if at all, understood. He is as ever pragmatic when discussing the matter stating, "the great thing about being dyslexic is, according to the experts, that you develop other senses. I developed the aesthetic side. Beauty has always interested me." His father took him to art exhibitions and churches so he became used to seeing art. However he feelsabout it with the benefit of hindsight, understanding dyslexiaback in the 1930sand 1940swas at best limited. Karlsson's formal academic schooling ended at a tender age in favour of learning the practical skillsof the building trade. what seemed to be a self-aggrandising monument to himself in the centre of the nation's capital. Such accusations could not be further from the truth. "It was time to give something back,"Karlsson says without a trace of irony.His superb private collection, which he feared when he was gone/would end up gathering dust in the basement of some state museum", contains, amongst others, works byAugust Strindberg, Lena Cronqvist, Dan Wolgers and Emst [osephson and is reputedly worth hundreds of millions of Swedish Kronor. The magnificent award-winning building was entirely funded by Karlsson himself, partly through the sale of his beloved family home, the 18th Century Herrgard (Manor House) Ekholmsniis on the idyllic island of Lidingo outside Stockholm. The property was rumoured to have fetched upwards of 65 million Kroner, (around $10 million).The final cost of building the museum was 150 million Kroner, more than $23 million.That's some gift back to your fellow citizens. Far from being a monument to avarice the building, according to Karlsson, is not only,"a work of art in its own right," but also most importantly," a silent demonstration against greed." Karlsson laughs off suggestions that he should have saved his money, stayed pu t, 33 MARCH 2014 Platform for budding artists The museum's concept was carefully designed to be entirely self-financing once up and running. The space includes commercial premises, 18 residential apartments, and a restaurant. All rental income is ploughed back into the Sven Harry Foundation, The foundation's remit is to encourage up and coming Swedish artists and designers and awards annual bursaries to successful candidates. Sven Harry's Konstmuseum is spread over six floors and hosts numerous temporary exhibitions often featuring new talent a well as more established artists. The building was designed by award winning Wmgardhs Architects, the glimmering facade the brainchild of Anna Hoglund. The exterior acts like a magnet and draws in the curious visitor. It is in itself a work of art and, according to Museum Director Elsebeth Welander- Bergren, in the early days,"many just came to see the building because it's so special." Many unique elements captivati such as beautifully designed yet functio exhibition spaces, high ceilings, glass wal that create an abundance of naturalligh and a small cinema in the basement. Th crowning glory however lies skywards. On the roof a precise replica of Sven Harry's beloved Ekholmsniis hides behind a low-key facade.Everydetail has been captured and here you'll find his collectio of art exhibitedjust as it was in his private home. According to Welander-Bergren the museum is many things by both design an necessity however/it is the replica of Sven Harry's home and the intimate atmosphen that creates which makes a visit utterly unique and a very special experience." She's right, for in the ordinary setting o a home Sven Harry singularly achieves over-riding goal of, de-mystifying art and de-constructing the notion of high cul , By inviting the visitor into his house to see his paintings Sven Harry Karlsson demonstrates that art is for everybody. When asked what makes a good piece 1 art Sven Harry has a simple answer/Soul On the roofterrace homage is paid to another Swedish obsession,that ofthe importance,poignancy,and transience of childhood.Lena Cronqvist'sbronze statues of childrenplayingare perhaps an acknowledgement of SvenHarry's own troubled upbringing and lost childhood years. ot long ago SvenHarry Karlssonwa asked how he'd liketo be remembered. He modestly replied'As a good builder."Add to that master craftsmanand art lover.• j

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