A Spring Visit to Stockholm: Two Days of Art

We arrived at Arlanda airport with my mother and god mother at 9 am. We stayed in Hotel Sven Vintappare, which is situated in the Old Town (Gamla Stan), the old Stockholm city center, a metro stop away from the current one. The hotel building was built in the 1600’s, and had a lovely vibe to it. The building was so narrow that we had a window on each side of our room. After arriving, we had some tea and cookies in the breakfast room downstairs. The service was very friendly.

Hallway at Hotel Sven Vintappare.

Breakfast room at Hotel Sven Vintappare, Old Town.

With cookies and tea in our tummies, we headed to the Fotografiska, the museum of photography. It’s probably my favorite place to visit in Stockholm. There were works by quite a few different artists, as always.

Out of all of the photographs, I enjoyed the portraits most. A portrait can really awaken somethingin a person, you would otherwise probably fail to recognize, if you were to pass the person on the street. A portrait of a superstar can make the star more human, and thus more relatable. However, a portrait depicting someone anonymous brings out something in that person that makes them feel very special. The Asakusa portraits of the Japanese artist Hiroh Kikai’s, taken from 1985 to 2002, stuck with me especially. The pictures where taken in the Asakusa district in Tokyo, in front of the Sensoji Temple, where pilgrims from all over the country travel to. 

Hiroh Kikai: A smiling old lady, 1986. Asakusa Portraits.

Hiroh Kikai: A man wearing four watches, 1987.

It said on the label that Kikai’s aim was to create an ”inexhaustible conversation between the viewer and the photograph.” I felt that that’s what happened in my case at least. Each photograph was accompanied with a sentence describing the person. That sentence started a flow of thoughts and questions in me, which I then tried to find answers for from the photograph.

It was a misty day in Stockholm, fairly warm though, compared to Helsinki at the time. We strolled along, and wound up in another museum, Moderna museet, on the next island.


From Moderna museet we walked to the Östermalm district, and stopped for a glass of wine in the Saluhall market hall. It was a quiet day, I remembered Stockholm to be a busier city, expecting more traffic and people, after all it is almost double the size in population as Helsinki. However, it felt like all the people were in hiding, as if the city was half asleep. I checked, and it was’t public holiday.

Flowers at Östermalmstorget (Östermalm Square).

The next day, the city had woken up. The streets were busy with cars and pedestrians, just like I had remembered it. We hadn’t really planned much in advanced, we felt it was best just to go with the flow, just like on the first day. 

So, after a delicious breakfast at our hotel we hopped on the subway and traveled a few stops to Sven Harry’s konstmuseum where there was an art exhibition of the works of Finnish artist Ellen Thesleff. This was a fairly small museum, close to Odenplan station in the Vasastan district. The artworks were very calming to look at. 

Ellen Thesleff: Helsinki harbor, 1912.

Decorative Landscape, 1910.

We took the subway back to the city center, and felt we wanted to see one exhibition more. It was a photography exhibition in Kulturhuset. The photos were taken by Vivian Maier, a New York City-born nanny. In a wonderful way, she captured the details in the life of the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970's. The pictures on display were mostly taken in New York City and Chicago. However, Maier never published them herself. The photographs weren’t found until after her death in 2009.  Her photographs includes various self portraits, mostly taken in front of a mirror. They were like super early mirror selfies.

Vivian Maier: Central Park 1955.

Vivian Maier: Self-portrait, 1953. 

After our visit to the exhibition, our little holiday was coming to an end. Before leaving, we enjoyed cake and muffins at a coffee house. Then, we grabbed our bags from the safety locker at the central station, and headed towards the airport.

Bye bye Stockholm! It was nice to see you.

See more about the artists and museums: