In Stockholm there is a tradition of public art that goes back to the 1960’s. In fact a law was passed in 1963 that stated that any public building project had to set aside 1% of the total funding specifically for artistic decoration.
The idea goes back much further than that; it was first suggested in 1937 and now in the 21st century more than 25 Communs or local authorities throughout Sweden follow the same rule.
But the glorious thing is that this is not necessarily giant works of art or sculpture by well known names. In fact a number of up and coming artists got themselves a leg up the ladder by submitting ideas and designs for buildings all around Sweden.
I came across one example just before Easter and it intrigued me from the start. All I first saw were some small figures or statues outside the entrances to a small block of flats in one of Stockholm’s suburbs. The block of sixty or so flats was not aimed at the luxury end of the market at all, it was simply affordable housing for people like you or me.
And the collections of statues reflected the sometimes quirky nature of Scandinavian humour. Instead of classical renditions of the body beautiful each of the entrances had a group of three objects all closely connected.
The first included a cat, a small funnel and a top hat. The second had a swan standing on a chaise longue and wearing a turban. The third had a baker standing on a goat but with a huge log on his shoulder and the fourth and final group was of a lady hugging a vulture!
Now I defy you to try and make sense of this, especially if you don’t know any Swedish. And NO, it isn’t anything to do with legend and folk lore. There are no folk tales involved at all, in fact it is a series of particularly appalling rhymes that lie behind this motley collection.
So, without further ado here is the explanation. The Cat on the top hat is almost straight out of Dr Seuss, and the funnel? Well, in Swedish that is called “tratt” and so there you have it: A Cat on a Top Hat with its head in a Tratt!
The chef is a Kock, the goat is a Bock, and the log is a Stock
Exactly the sort of thing to make people wonder as they passed by and then smile when they learn the slight silliness of it all. Not high art by any means, but certainly accessible and engaging, which is the whole point of the exercise.