Moderna Museet Takes on Rooseum; MUDAM Opens in Luxembourg; and Hirst's Shark in Troubled Water


Malmö's Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art is to become a branch of Stockholm's Moderna Museet. As Dagens Nyheter's Ole Rothenborg reports, the municipal cultural council made the decision last week after talks with the Stockholm institution. Rooseum's budget and administrative troubles have intensified over the last year, its fate uncertain ever since the 2004 departure of director Charles Esche, who now heads Eindhoven's Van Abbemuseum. For Moderna Museet's director Lars Nittve, annexing the art center in southern Sweden represents a return to his roots—Nittve ran the Rooseum from 1990–1995.

Before an agreement was reached with Moderna Museet, the Rooseum board chose to put up its permanent collection of 250 artworks for auction in Stockholm. Featuring works made predominantly by Nordic artists in the '80s, including works by Max Book, Cecilia Edefalk, Anders Widoff, Ernst Billgren, and Stig Sjölund, a recent inventory revealed that eighteen artworks were missing while some new works had been added to the collection. Now, the scope of the sale has been reduced in order to avoid undercutting the market value of certain artists in the collection. The Rooseum's doors will remain closed over the summer as the institution attempts to account for discrepancies. Its first exhibition under the aegis of the Moderna Museet takes place in January 2007.


Luxembourg's new museum of contemporary art—the Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (aka MUDAM)—opened its doors last weekend. As the Luxemburger Wort reports, the spectacular glass-roofed building—with a budget of €88 milllion ($112.7 million)—was designed by IM Pei. The three-story structure with 4,800 square meters (51,667 square feet) of exhibition space was constructed on top of the foundational wall of an eighteenth-century fortress. “The most important aspect, which intrigued me, is the interplay between the past, the present, and the future,” said the eighty-nine-year-old architect who, this year, will inaugurate another two museums, one in China and one in Qatar.

The inaugural exhibition—titled “Eldorado”—features works by sixty international artists, including Cai Guo Qiang's installation in the central glass hall. MUDAM also possesses a permanent collection of 230 works by one hundred artists. Museum director Marie-Claude Beaud built up the collection over the last six years by working in collaboration with international advisors from other museums, including the Tate Gallery, the Guggenheim Museum, and Vienna's arts academy.


Perhaps the most famous shark in art history—currently preserved in formaldehyde in Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living 1991—is slowly deteriorating in its liquid coffin. Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Rose-Maria Gropp takes this as an opportunity to reflect upon the vanitas vanitatum of the '90s Young British Artists, a loose movement dominated by Hirst and collector Charles Saatchi. As Gropp notes, Hirst had the shark caught off the coast of Australia, killed, and then shipped to England for £6,000 ($11,000). Saatchi commissioned the work for £50,000 ($92,000)—only to sell it back to Hirst and his dealer Jay Jopling in 2004. Later that same year, collector Steven Cohen acquired the shark for £6.5 million ($12 million).

Faced with the work's deterioration, Hirst has proposed replacing the old dead shark with a new dead one. In spite of the conceptual dimension of the installation, Gropp finds the proposal troubling. “If the shark is changed, is the artwork still the same artwork?” she asks. “Hirst's shark is not a readymade, at least not in the way intended by conceptual art founder Marcel Duchamp; rather Hirst produced art through death—through a dead piece of nature, an animal that was killed at his order.” It seems that killing another shark on command does not trouble the artist, the dealer, or the owner of the piece. “That's just a cynical point,” writes Gropp. “The idea's primacy can cost millions. It seems that art in the age of accelerated capitalism has found its most powerful symbol in Hirst's masterpiece.”

Jennifer Allen