Minimalist interior style works with most art and home decor pieces – but there is a style that is distinctly Scandinavian. In this article Art: Masterpiece 2019 pick our favourite pieces from the prestigious annual Masterpiece London exhibition. Masterpiece is the elite annual show of the world’s finest art and interior pieces. It’s housed in a stunning, specially constructed marquee on the Chelsea Hospital grounds in London.
As the name suggests, you’ll find unique masterpieces by artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Grayson Perry and Banksy. And there are furniture makers past and present. But there are also pieces by “new” masters. Here we look at the pieces which fit the Scandi look and enhance the style.
We looked for art and design in the right shades of colour, lines and shapes. But there’s one criteria above all else. That is: How does the piece connect with Scandinavian culture and character if the piece originates in another country?
What are the Scandinavian Interior Design Characteristics – and why Art?
Art in the Scandi home creates drama – not noise. It’s the understatement, the subliminal message, the bubbling under the surface that characterise the Nordic character. So it is with art. The barely-there painting creates a stark effect in the room. We seek out the white on white and the simple line or cut in the canvas. It intrigues and raises questions in the viewer’s mind rather than throw colours or opinions in their face.
Andy Warhol artwork – Pop Art Images and Home Decor
But not all Scandi art decor is white or mono colour. Sticking to the Nordic theme, here is one masterpiece which perfectly sums up the Scandi decor: Ingrid Bergman, a Swedish actress and emigree painted by the colourful pop artist Andy Warhol. In itself, the picture is unremarkable and wouldn’t make it on to the wall in many homes for all its wants: an apparently ordinary looking blonde wearing a hat, large overcoat and prominent red lipstick. It is somewhat kitch.
Why this would be the perfect wall art in any Scandi home is because of all it represents: an ordinarily pretty woman, leaving home and becoming an international icon. It represents the “all Scandi dream” as it was a century ago, of going out into the world and making a success of it.
Andy Warhol on Scandi legend Ingrid Bergman
Apart from her starring roles on screen, Ingrid Bergman’s personal life was filled with drama. She embodies the very Scandinavian traits of “bubbling beneath the surface”. For more information on how you can paint Andy Warhol style pop art yourself, read our blog Wall Decor: Paint Andy Warhol style pop art here.
There is classic Scandi art decor and then there’s bold decor: both styles go hand in glove with Nordic interior design. That is the beauty and perhaps the wider appeal across the globe of the minimalist school of thought.
There is classic Scandi art decor and then there’s bold decor: both styles go hand in glove with Nordic interior design. That is the beauty and perhaps the wider appeal across the globe of the minimalist school of thought. It allows for absolutely any art, and often the Scandi home will be a white shell filled with bold, colourful pieces.
And sometimes the cheeky collage or canvas by the art provocateur – such as this piece by Blah, Blah, Blah by Mel Bochner. To read more on how to choose art for your home real also our blog Buying Art as a Millennial Home Owner.
The Skagen Painters
Today’s Scandinavian artists are less well known to the outside world than Scandi film, fashion and interior designers. But the countries’ visual artists are far from a sedate bunch producing landscapes in pastel colours. Graffiti and conceptual art is moving from the street and into the living rooms. Names such as Mikael B., Jeppe Hein, Poul Pava and Kristian von Hornsleth push the boundaries with loud, tongue in cheek or childlike art. True Nordic style is about much more than pastel colours and straight lines. It is about authenticity, functionality and a sense of space and peace.
Scandinavian Art History and Art: Masterpiece 2019
Yet, one of the oldest forms of Nordic art dates back to the Vikings – hardly the most peaceful of tribes. Scandinavian art – or Nordic Viking art as it is often referred to – is very true to its roots. It’s based on survival, status and beauty. Whereas art today reflects political and cultural themes, in the 7th – 10th Centuries it, power and religion were running themes. Materials were stone for monuments and metals. They were the ones that survived until today. Human skin, which was often tattooed, bones and wood objects did not.
The Reformation was relatively peaceful in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia, hence curators of the time – ca. 1520-1540 – managed to preserve much of the art. Art from that period was highly religious, church paintings and decorations.
That wasn’t art news. The news during that time was the fact that paintings of Jesus or other religious figures weren’t worshipped or objectified. Only Jesus himself was worshipped. It was a rejection of Catholic materialism. But the most prevalent, or popular, period in Scandinavian art today is perhaps the golden age and romantic period of the 18th and 19th Centuries.
From working class fishing village to upmarket holiday resort
Particularly the Skagen artists in the late 19th Century, who congregated in the most northern part of Denmark and are known as the Danish Masters. Their influence is huge to this day and the town has become a popular holiday resort with the cultural elite. It was the light that attracted the artists to the area. The same can be said of St Tropez as Southern European artists were attracted to the French Riviera in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Also the North Sea, the rough weather and raw nature and its fishermen provided the painters with plenty of inspiration. They’ve left us with wonderful oils on canvas of people and nature at their most intense state.
Skagen paintings and even imitations are much sought after as wall art in Scandinavian homes. They project Scandi values and aesthetic to the full – even if some of them picked up inspiration from the French masters during their travels abroad. Among the most famous artists from that period are Michael and Anna Ancher, Martinus Rørbye (see painting above), Peder Severin, Holger Drachmann, and Marie Krøyer.
Best Art for Scandinavian Interior – Scandi Decor Inspiration
But back to Art: Masterpiece 2019 London, the annual exhibition of the best in art and decor and what pieces we can take from that and place in the typical Scandinavian home.
The answer is that pretty much any art will look good and stand out against the pale Scandi shell. But there is a certain type of art which would make a home truly Nordic. Strong, defined lines but faint colours are the foundations of our interior and on that we build a homely feeling – through art it USED to be equally understated paintings and sculptures.
Strong, defined lines but faint colours are the foundations of our interior and on that we build a homely feeling – through art it USED to be equally understated paintings and sculptures. A piece like A Growing Boy by John Kirby from the Masterpiece London exhibition is a perfect example of new Scandi style art for the home.
Thought provocative art and minimalism
The concept is complicated – a boy with no clothes wearing a pink crown and looking bemused. Only a cross for decor. The painting below throws up all sorts of questions. Why so glum looking and why pink? And why isn’t he wearing a shirt if he can wear a necklace? But the style of the work is simple – if the concept is challenging there are few, colours and and lines to to confuse the eye.
Another bolder style which is growing on the Scandi decorator is art like this piece by Jean Dubuffet, Effigie Incertaine XXVI. It would be a scene stealer in a Scandi home – the bold mix of red shades with yellow against white and a motif that sparks the imagination.
Effigie Incertaine was one of hundreds, if not thousands, of greats that appeared at the Masterpiece London 2019 show. Amedeo Modigliani’s La Bourguignonne from 1919 – celebrating its 100th anniversary this year – would, of course, also look terrific in a Scandi home, but it’s atypical. And with “Price on Request” marked against it, unlikely.
Scandinavian Aesthetic by Nordic Artists
We can’t leave without including these two pieces: One is not a painting, it is wood art by Nigel Hall, called Triple Ellipse, below. It is as Scandi as it gets…nature, simple design, simple concept, aesthetically pleasing and blending into the surroundings. It is effortless, and possibly meaningless. Perfect!
We can’t leave without including these two pieces: One is not a painting, it is wood art by Nigel Hall, called Triple Ellipse. It is as Scandi as it gets…nature, simple design, simple concept, aesthetically pleasing and blending into the surroundings. It is effortless, and possibly meaningless. Perfect!
The other piece is also classic Scandi art. Although not by a Scandinavian, of course: it’s SP Black 2 by Ricardo Mazal. Boxy, square, straight lines and and colours which would blend in with the furniture. You’d hardly notice it’s there. Very Nordic.
Despite the Skagen masters, art, the Scandinavians have been less trend setting than their French Riviera ‘rivals’.
That is changing with a new generation – not just the younger generation – showing more courage, confidence and a higher level of sophistication in their art. And provocation.
With increased travel and boundaries coming down over the last few decades, new messages are creeping into the old Scandi mindset. Artists are now channeling those new messages and impressions from abroad and from new things happening in their home countries. They are shaking up their fellow countrymen, their homes and the landscape. They produce paintings and sculpture which are bold in color and message and the Scandis are lapping it up.
A Modern Masterpiece Scandinavian Style
But our final Scandi style find at the Masterpiece London exhibition 2019 is by a non-Scandi called Chun Kwan Young. The piece is a thing of beauty. It’s called Aggregation 16 – JA006 (Blue), is mixed media with Korean mulberry paper. Viewed from afar it looks like a delicate painting in natural colors: earth brown, cream, sand and blue with some clever shading to create dimension.
But close up it is very different. Little boxes with writing on it, tied together by fine rope. The effort, imagination, precision and aesthetic is something to behold. The “painting” itself fits hand in glove into the Scandinavian home – picking up the natural colors of the furniture, the blue of the sea and sky. And the sandy tones and little boxes pick up the them of rough, sandy beaches, of which there are many in the Nordic countries.