Art open to everybody, at the core of public space
It all started in 2008, when two rebel hearts and devoted art freaks decided to give people an alternative art space, one that would be experienced not only physically; a space that people would acknowledge, relive and recollect; a space that would remain in the collective conscience and that would be sacredly kept at the heart of the public. Art for everybody, in the city center – this was the idea that sparked a long-term collaboration and friendship between Mats Nilsson, then Head of the city’s art gallery and Lars Jonsson, a recently Örebro-relocated artist.
“After 10 years in Dusseldorf, which has a long tradition in arts, I’d moved back to Örebro in 2006. Life as an artist in smaller towns can be challenging. I was fortunate to have met Mats shortly after I came back to Sweden. It took us about 10 minutes and a coffee to become friends”, says Lars Jonnson.
“Public art creates powerful encounters”
The Art Gallery organizes the first OpenART
Number of artists: 71
Mats and Lars started working together at the art gallery in 2007. That year, the gallery received a new policy directive to display art in unconventional places.
“And then it struck us. Lars and I both wanted to the same thing – an exciting project that would put cutting-edge art on display in public locations in Örebro”, says Mats.
As a result, OpenART started in the summer of 2008. The first edition featured 71 artists, mostly from Scandinavia, whose works were exhibited anywhere from hidden corners downtown Örebro to shop windows, on rooftops or on the surface of river Svartån. It became popular among the people in no time. A surprise came already in 2008, when OpenART was awarded the “Surprise of the Year” award (Årets överraskning) at Örebrogalan.
Number of artists: 80
In 2009, the confirmation that OpenART was becoming international came once the artist selection process begun. Applications from many parts of the world came pouring in. Örebro was taking its first step on the world’s cultural map as an exciting art platform.
“OpenART is about temporary, non-commercial art
that plays with perceptions”
A big yellow rabbit
Number of artists: 56
At its third edition in 2011, OpenART made headlines in the international media, after a gigantic bunny was dropped in Örebro’s central square, its tail against the sculpture of Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, one of Sweden’s greatest national heroes. Florentijn Hofman’s Big Yellow Rabbit became an icon, loved by many and condemned by some due to its location. The love for the city’s big rabbit went as far as determining a group of people to campaign for saving it from dismantlement.
The campaign to save the rabbit did not succeed. Mats Nilsson explained in an interview with The Telegraph that “We are not interested in having the rabbit reduced to a commercial gimmick.”
After a successful 2011, Mats Nilsson received Örebro Sparbanks’ culture scholarship for his involvement in the exhibition.
Largest in Scandinavia
Number of artists: 71
Following a new political decision, OpenART became an organization of its own in 2013. It has since functioned as an independent project within the Municipality of Örebro. The event is realized in close cooperation with the City Art Gallery, Örebro County Museum and Konstfrämjandet Bergslagen.
Benefiting from great support from partners, OpenART developed diverse projects meant to actively involve a wider audience in a dialogue with art. Besides guided tours, projects for children and young people, as well as programs for artists in all stages of their careers have taken place under OpenART. Two such projects are OpenART Kids and OpenART Academy.
In 2013, OpenART established itself as the biggest public art biennial in Scandinavia, featuring more than 100 works by 71 artists from all over the world, OpenART Kids, OpenART Academy, guided tours and special night tours, as well as special events. Almost all OpenART activities are free of charge.
Big Focus on Contemporary Chinese Art
Number of artists: 72
At the fifth edition of OpenART, a special focus is on contemporary Chinese art. A unique curatorial collaboration between independent art curator Feng Boyi and OpenART Director Lars Jonnson sees thirteen contemporary artists from China preparing artworks for unprecedented exhibitions, symbolically entitled “Encounter” and “No Holds Barred”. Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing and Song Dong are among the participants.
OpenART 2015 has received a record interest, with 450 artists from more than 70 countries sending in applications. In 2015, OpenART showcases some 130 artworks, created by 72 artists from 19 countries. The artworks will be exhibited on more than 70 venues across city center.