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Full House at Moderna Museet at the Book Launch on Theodor Ahrenberg and His Collections

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It was full house at Moderna Museet on Friday last week, when Daniel Birnbaum and Staffan Ahrenberg – son of Theodor ‘Teto’ Ahrenberg (1912-1989) – were in conversation about how Henri Matisse’s Apollon became part of the museum collections, in conjunction with the newly published book Living with Matisse, Picasso and Christo – Theodor Ahrenberg and His Collections.

Apollon was one of Matisse’s last great works, and was bought by Ahrenberg in 1954 and hanged in the Ahrenberg residence in Stockholm. It was part of the billion valued art collection that was sold for a trifle by the Swedish State in the early 60s. At the same time, Sweden also missed out on a new museum designed by Le Corbusier.

After World War II, Ahrenberg began creating one of the most ambitious and willful private collections of modern art that has ever existed – but which remains generally unknown. It was comprised of almost a thousand pieces by established masters such as Matisse, Picasso and Chagall, and of groundbreaking younger artists such as Kantor, Baertling and Tinguely.

Ahrenberg’s rich and personal collection was shaped by his conviction that he was not simply a collector, but also a ‘catalyser’ – someone who facilitated for exhibitions, collaborations and commissions, and who used art in order to counteract conservatism and complacency.

The collection was confiscated in 1962 under contested circumstances by the Swedish authorities, and was later dispersed. There were also far developed plans for creating a new, world class art museum designed by Le Corbusier at the water outside of Norr Mälarstrand. These plans were also dissolved.

Ahrenberg later created a new and even more progressive collection that highlighted artists from the 60s’ avantgarde, such as Christo, Arman, Lucio Fontana and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Drawing upon rich visual material and correspondence – much previously unpublished – this book offers an in-depth exploration of Ahrenberg’s fascinating collections and life.

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