Snøhetta’s design rendering of the Hilma af Klint Museum facade.

Dispute Threatens Plans to Establish Hilma af Klint Museum

A disagreement between Hilma af Klint’s descendants and a group of anthroposophists planning to build a museum dedicated to the Swedish painter has brought the project to a standstill, Clemens Bomsdorf of the Art Newspaper reports.

Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta has been selected to design the new institution, which will be located in Järna, Sweden. Estimated to cost between $6.4 and $7.5 million, the project aims to celebrate and share the paintings of the abstraction pioneer, who was producing work well before her contemporaries Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich.

The artist’s family claims that the group spearheading the project is placing too much emphasis on the influence Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, had on af Klint’s career. They are also worried that the group will sell her works to finance the museum. “Their behavior made it impossible to cooperate and therefore no works shall go on loan to that exhibition hall,” said Johan af Klint, the artist’s grand-nephew.

Ulf Wagner, a member of the af Klint foundation’s board who is linked to the Swedish anthroposophical society, said that they have no plans to sell any works, and are not allowed to. The foundation was created to preserve the artist’s work and legacy.

Born in 1862, af Klint studied art at Tekniska Skolan in Stockholm, and between 1882 and 1887 she was a student at the Royal Academy of the Fine Arts. After graduating she opened a studio at Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm, where she painted and exhibited portraits and landscapes in a naturalist style. Af Klint was influenced by contemporary spiritual movements, such as spiritism, theosophy, and, later, anthroposophy.

Her gradual shift toward painting abstract works coincided with a budding interest in séances. In 1896, af Klint and four other women formed the group De Fem (The Five) and attempted to make contact with “high masters” from another dimension. When she painted, she believed that a higher consciousness was speaking through her. While she created many works, the artist decided the world wasn’t ready for them during her lifetime. When she died she left her estate, comprising one thousand works and more than 120 notebooks, to her nephew, Erik af Klint, and requested that he not exhibit her abstract paintings until twenty years after her passing. In 2013, Moderna Museet staged a solo exhibition featuring two hundred paintings and works on paper.