Inger Wästberg has had a long and industrious career in public service and politics in Sweden and is the author of several publications. In 1999 Inger accompanied her husband Olle Wästberg to New York where he was to take up the post of Swedish Consul General and remained there for 6 years. While in New York Inger actively promoted Swedish Art and Design, and discovered her love of Contemporary Art Jewellery, of which she has become a very strong advocate for. She also has a very impressive collection of her own.
Contemporary Art Jewellery took centre stage this Spring in Stockholm when The National Museum’s Art Jewellery 2016 initiative was launched, with exhibitions at 20 different venues, giving Art Jewellery more recognition than it has done in years in Sweden. This was what brought Art Jewellery to my attention, a genre I knew very little about which led to an interview with artist Märta Mattson. The person behind this initiative was Inger Wästberg.
You have had a long career in politics and administration. Could you give a little overview of your career before you left for New York?
I had mostly been working in the disability field in the County of Stockholm as an adviser to the Minister of Social Affairs and as Director General for the office of the Disability Ombudsman. I have also been a member of the Stockholm City Council and vice chair of Stockholm University.
In New York I found that jewellery – when it had a message – could be a good topic of conversation. My task was to represent Sweden so I learned more about the Swedish Jewellery scene. Coming home from New York I studied Art history and wrote my Master’s thesis on Contemporary Swedish Art Jewellery. That also led to a network among artists and museum directors
What first attracted you to Contemporary Art Jewellery and do you remember your first piece?
Simple, I have always been interested in art, and this is an art genre. My first piece of Art Jewellery of this kind was made by Mona Wallström.
You had a hand in this Spring’s big initiative organised by The National Museum with Contemporary Art Jewellery exhibitions throughout Stockholm. How did this come about?
I know the director of the Swedish National Museum, Berndt Arell, so I contacted him with the idea for an art exhibition at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. They held a similar exhibition 30 years ago, and it was high time for another one. I also had some ideas from curators. We then assembled a group of other museum directors and people relevant in this field and tried to coordinate an effort. This worked out very well with different exhibitions all over the city.
Could this become a yearly fixture on the Art Calendar in Stockholm?
I think an annual event like this would be too much, but I hope it will be possible to organise something like this again.
Many of the Art Jewellery artists are coming from Gothenburg. How did Gothenburg come to have the only Design College that offers a division in Contemporary Art Jewellery in Sweden?
Historically the School of Craft and Design in Gothenburg, HDK, was the first to have a professor in this field, Ingjerd Hanevold, and the first to pick up on the international development where ”decoration” changed to art.
What is the status of Contemporary Art Jewellery in Sweden? Is it embraced on the same level as other Art Forms?
Regrettably not. We have only one gallery specialized in Contemporary Art Jewellery. There was some publicity around the exhibits in March, but many writers still do not regard Art Jewellery as Art.
Do you think Swedish Art Institutions are doing enough to promote Contemporary Art Jewellery as an important part of the art scene here?
Well, The National Museum has done so of late but it took a long time. Röhsska in Gothenburg has a small collection. But it stops there.
Could you tell me about your book “Contemporary Swedish Art Jewellery”?
It is a book covering this art genre and also a discourse on how it is received by the traditional art institutions.
Are you working on anything now that is related to Art Jewellery?
I am going to be part of an international jury, and will be curating a small gallery exhibition in New York. I am also in close contact with the National Museum.