The Art is slightly different
Art and music have always played a central role at Lydmar. Back in 2008, when the “new Lydmar” opened at its current location on Blasieholmen, marvellous photography by the documentary photographer James Nachtwey greeted guests in the entrance hall and lobby. And this spring, Maria Turchenkova’s powerful images from the war in Dagestan contributed to a much-publicized exhibition. The art at Lydmar is considered part of the cityscape. It’s not exclusive to overnight guests. Anyone can come in and have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and a wander around the hotel, while enjoying the exhibition at hand. Lydmar’s exhibitions most often feature fine art photography, much of which is documentary in nature. The exhibition in the lobby area changes a few times a year. However, art is not limited to this space. Each floor and of course each room is decorated with art photography from the hotel’s earlier exhibitions, creating the unique vibe for which Lydmar is renowned.
Right now, the hotel is hosting the rather sensational exhibition “Beggars Banquet Stories”, built on photos of The Rolling Stones when they were working on the album of the same name in 1968. Many of the pictures were taken by Michael Joseph, a London-based, South-African born photographer, who started his career documenting the war in Vietnam. These kinds of documentary photographs, along with music from the same era, laid the foundation for modern rock ’n roll. The exhibition, showcasing art photography with icon status today, was made possible by Nette Johansson, owner of The PhotoGallery in Halmstad, in collaboration with Lydmar’s CEO Maria Maruska.
Maria: At Lydmar, we’ve always loved art photography – and it feels like interest in the genre has grown in the world of art – is that the case?
Nette: Yes, you can say that. More and more people are buying expensive art photography today than ever before. I think that people trust and recognise its value more. People often start with a portrait of a person who meant something to them in the past – from a band, movie or the like – later moving on to photography that means something to them today. But the answer is yes, more and more are investing in fine art photography. Nowadays, I would say that art photography is a better investment than stocks and bonds. And much more decorative!
M: Why do you think interest in the genre is growing?
N: In part, I think that photography has become much more accessible thanks to social media and the fact that today everybody has a camera in their phones – everyone’s caught the photography bug. I also believe that photography is taken much more seriously as an art form now. The down side is that there is a risk of feeling saturated and not being prepared to pay for it, which is absurd because, like traditional art, good photography also costs money. The market in the United States understands this, most probably thanks to the country’s strong history of photography.
M: I’m extremely proud of our “Beggars Banquet Stories” exhibition. Tell us a bit about the story behind the photographs.
N: This exhibition is built on some truly iconic photos, primarily of The Rolling Stones, but it also reflects the entire cultural revolution of the ‘60s. Music was central to that era, one in which peace, love and understanding were ideals that everyone burned for. I’d like to say that some of these photographs helped change the world. Many of the photographs in the exhibition were taken by Michael Joseph, a photographer who had the honour of accompanying the band to the Sarum Chase mansion in Hampstead, outside London. It’s said he was given the assignment because he was the best in the industry for fixing props. He spent an entire weekend there doing the photoshoot for the Beggars Banquet album.
The album’s original cover, depicting a dirty, graffiti-ridden lavatory, was rejected by the band’s record company. This was strongly disputed by the Stones and the release of the album was delayed for months. In the end, the band had to reconsider, replacing it with a cover photo of a hastily thrown-together dinner invitation instead. But as all Stones fans know the album was rereleased in 1984 with the original image on the cover. This image has also been featured on most of the reissues since then. That goes to show what a strong impact images have on us…
Not all photographs in the exhibition are shot by Michael Joseph. Also represented is Baron Wolman, chief photographer for the Rolling Stone’s magazine in the 1960s, who started documenting the band’s groupies. So is Gered Mankowitz, who was the band’s “court photographer” during their ´65 USA tour. The exhibition also showcases photography by Terry O’Neill. One of O’Neill’s first professional assignments in the world of publications was to document a new pop band for a tabloid newspaper, which sold out in just a few hours thanks to his photo of the Beatles. And since the chief editor thought that O’Neil had a good way with the upstarts of this new music world, he was also asked to take a picture of The Rolling Stones. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Even if exhibitions aren’t your thing, I would say that this is one that you don’t want to miss. Anyone with some level of interest in music should stop by for sure. I also think it’s the perfect exhibition for Lydmar, which with a long and solid commitment both to music and documentary art photography has really found a combination that is interesting for music fans and art lovers alike.
M: Curating exhibitions like “Beggars Banquet Stories” isn’t the only thing you do – what else do you have going on?
N: First and foremost, I run my gallery, The PhotoGallery, in Halmstad, where I curate exhibitions, work with photographers and try to find new talent in the genre. But I’m also commissioned by companies to organize exhibitions, like this one for Lydmar, and I also help private clients who are looking for a specific piece. So, my days are jampacked but incredibly fun, I’m totally involved in everything – no matter how big or small. I think about photography when I’m going to sleep, and I can wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it – all my thoughts circle around photography. Did I invoice the client? Did I call the photographer? Did I send the right information to the journalist? Did I pick the right photo for Instagram?
M: I know you enjoy helping us put together exhibitions – what is your dream set-up for an exhibition?
N: Yes, I fell in love with Lydmar the minute I walked through the door. All the photography is always carefully selected within the given theme – and it’s is also a great forum for exhibitions – everything looks good at the Lydmar. But If I had to choose a dream location I’d have to say it would be the Royal Palace. Another dream would be to organize the biggest exhibition of Cindy Sherman photography ever. That would be phenomenal!
M: Indeed, we’ve bought our fair share of artwork over the years for Lydmar. But what about you? Do you have a sizable private collection or do you get enough of photography through your work?
N: I practice what I preach. I love art photography and have a nice little collection that I’m proud of. My wallet was pretty thin while my children were growing up but I’ve always put some money away for photography. I’ve also always bought and given my children one piece a year. That wasn’t so popular when they were teenagers but nowadays they’re very grateful. And my photographs definitely hang on the wall. I don’t see any reason not to enjoy your investments. That’s why putting money into art is so much more fun than stocks and bonds. Then there are a few photographs that I’ve sold over the years that I wish I’d been on the buying end. A few Helmut Newtons that I wish I could have afforded. I sold a Christer Strömholm “Barcelona lady” to finance something important a few years ago, which I will always regret. When I was a newcomer to the industry you could still buy Cindy Sherman’s work, who in my opinion is the greatest female artist of all time, for around SEK 20,000-30,000 apiece. At that time, I didn’t have the opportunity to buy one, but if I had, it would be worth much, much more today. Her photography is amazing and in great demand.
Of course, you can often snag one of the works of art at Lydmar. A good investment if you believe in the spurt in value we’ve been seeing recently, and as Nette says, “so much more decorative than stocks and bonds!”