image courtsy of curator, photography Katya L

Alida Ivanov: Instrumentalising Art Can Be a Slippery Slope

Written by Natalia Muntean

To kick off Stockholm Art Week, we have asked a number of interesting people from the city’s art scene questions to explore their relationship to art and the city.

Alida Ivanov is an independent art curator and writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden. With over 20 years of experience in the art world, she has worked through various galleries, museums, agencies, and artists to showcase their work in creative approaches. Currently, Ivanov serves as the Artistic Director for SKF/Konstnärshuset and oversees art projects for ArtPlatform.

What is the story behind the exhibition during Stockholm Art Week? 
During Art Week we are showing the exhibition Himlakroppar with artists Barbro Hedström, Ekaterina Lukoshkova, and Trinidad Carrillo. It’s in the line of intergenerational shows that has become the trademark of SKF/Konsnärshuset’s exhibition programme. Himlakroppar is the Swedish word for ‘celestial bodies’ and in the show, the word is handled quite literally. All three artists have works that balance man and nature, in a kind of magic realism realm. The body is prevalent in a lot of different ways. 

What inspired you to become a curator, and how has your journey evolved? 
I started working at a gallery when I was 20 and back then I didn’t really think I wanted to be a curator. But by the time I was in my mid-20s, it was what I was, or that’s when I started defining my job as that. What I like about being a curator is that it’s an elastic professional role that can involve so many different things. For me, it’s everything from planning/managing/producing exhibitions and public art projects to writing about art, marketing and many more things. Having this flexibility is also a downside, it's sometimes difficult to explain my work and define curators' rights and conditions in the labour market.

What is your creative process like, and how do you develop new ideas and concepts for your curatorial work? 
It’s different from time to time. Usually, I start with an artist or a group of artists I would like to see together in some kind of constellation. This can be something that has been in the back of my mind for years. And sometimes it’s a theme, or a sentence, or something that I’ve listened to or watched that sparks something that works with that artist or artists that I’ve been thinking about. 

What role do you think art plays in society, and how do you see your work contributing to or challenging societal norms?
This is a hard question. Art is very important for society, and for our well-being and is what makes us human. But I do feel that it’s a slippery slope to instrumentalise art, to use art for a specific agenda. That being said, it would be naive to assume this doesn't happen or can't be a good thing. I think for the right cause, art can be super powerful. 

In my work, I try to join forces with the artists and other collaborators I choose to work with. And to be able to be an outlet where people can tell different stories from a multitude of backgrounds, generations and so on. I feel as curators, it is our job to make an effort to not only choose the same artists and art over and over again. 

Are there any particular themes or subjects that consistently appear in your exhibitions, and if so, what draws you to them?
I would love to say I never reuse a theme, but I have. The themes I gravitate towards are digital culture, TV, popular culture/phenomenon, group mentality, modernism (postmodernism), and how it affects us today, hopefully with a tongue-in-cheek twist.

Can you share a favourite spot in Stockholm where you go to find inspiration or recharge creatively? 
The flea market at Hötorget on Sundays. I usually go with my dad, but I always lose him within five minutes. I love to haggle, but sometimes I just call in Dad to do the last haggle blow!

Is there a Swedish artist who you find inspirational? 
At the beginning of this year, I had the honour to exhibit works by the late Björn Stampes. It was such a beautiful experience to get to know his artistic practice through the eyes of his loved ones and, together with his partner Sophi Vejrich, find a format that would be fitting for a memorial show, but also give the work new life and context. Stampes' work is so beautiful, and meticulously made, with amazing colour combos, and fun.

Barbro Hedström

Duo, 1994 

image courtsy of curator

Björn Stampes

three-dimensional, colorful, time-consuming

2024, installation view

photo SKF Konstnärshuset

image courtsy of curator

photography Katya Lukoshkova