Monday night will see the opening at Stockholm's classic Sturehof restaurant of the exhibition Primavera, named by Yours Truly, a series of powerful images, to phrase it moderately, by the one and only Mikael Jansson, my dear old friend and Big Brother in that big bad world of fashion – Sweden's greatest fashion photographer ever, in a league of his own, and indeed one of the world's greatest, with a list of clients that includes American, French and Japanese Vogue, Interview, Calvin Klein, Dior, Chloé, Donna Karan, Tod's, and so many more.
Since we discontinued the publishing of our own magazine Stockholm New back in 2002, Mikael hasn't produced a fashion story of this magnitude here in his homeland, but when Stefano Catenacci, the maitre d' at the legendary The Opera Celler grand eatery, asked him to contribute his own vision of spring for the restaurant's upcoming cookbook, which will feature His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf himself, Mikael accepted, flew in his team from Paris and New York, including Polish star model Anna Jagodzinska, and staged this horrorshow visual drama, inspired by Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", of course with the raw, blood-dripping lamb meat as the spring part of it all, the son of a buther as Mikael is...
Phrasing it mildly once again, the images weren't quite what The Opera Celler or the publishing house Bonniers had expected. That they wouldn't want to touch them even with a ten foot pole, as the American says, was something that Mikael should have been able to figure out with the less noble parts of his body. It's so much just like him to execute his idea all the way out all the same, cost what it will, without worrying all too much about the consequences. I can see the expressions on the faces of ladies at the publishing house when they first laid eyes on these pictures. The Royal Court most likely never got to see them, which was probably just as well for several reasons...
My even older friend Pelle Sturén, patron at Sturehof, has been asking Mikael to exhibit something at his restaurant for many years. As he usually does, Mikael has answered that he would very much like to, the day he has something suitable for the venue. When the Opera Celler and Bonniers very definitely turned the story down, the awaited phone call finally came, when Mikael said that now he did indeed have something "suitable". Pelle and Sturehof flex some gusto when they now go ahead with showing these images originally produced for their competitor. The exhibition has been deemed so controversial that the restaurant has fashioned a curtain seperating the dining room where the images are exhibited from the rest of the large brasserie.
It will be intersesting to follow what kind of response this shall we say alternative spring vision will trigger among the restaurant's guests and others, considering that back in the days when Mikael and I regularly produced large-scale fashion stories together, we were just as regularly faced, in Swedish media and elsewhere, with the most atrocious accusations, for elitism, sexism, promotion of twisted beauty ideals, drug romanticism and god knows what, even nazism and pedophila – all this for images that were considerably more innocent than the ones that Mikael is now showing at Sturehof.
If your Swedish is decent, you can visit the Sturehof website and read the essay I've written for the Primavera exhibition, where I also discuss the fascinating impact of fashion photography and its relationship to other media and art forms. A translated English version will follow.
Then get down and go and see the show, goddamnit, and come back and tell me your opinion about it!