Sweden’s art scene shows its alternative side in Malmö

From major galleries to small independent artist-run spaces, Malmö’s art scene is as diverse as the city itself.

Sweden’s art scene shows its alternative side in Malmö
Photo: Malmö-based artist and curator Mary Toreld

Cheap and chilled, qualities popular with creative types, artists have long flocked to Malmö for its affordable studio space but stayed to be part of the tight-knit community.

“In the past few years, lots of creative people have been moving here,” says artist Carl Lindh, who runs Signal, a non-profit centre for contemporary art in Malmö. “Fine artists but also musicians and other people involved with the art and culture scenes. It’s made it a very interesting time.”

Carl, who hails from Hässleholm some 100km north of Malmö, first moved to the city in 1999 to study at its prestigious Art Academy. After stints in Edinburgh and Leeds in the UK, he found himself drawn back to Malmö where he has lived since 2008.

Start planning your tour of Malmö’s art scene

Photo: Artist and curator Carl Lindh. Credit: Kota Sake

“Malmö is the only city in Sweden where I can see myself living and working as an artist. I still feel it is the most interesting city in Sweden. The population is very diverse and there's more of a DIY attitude among artists. They think 'Let's do something instead of waiting for something to happen'”, says Carl.

The influx of artists from all disciplines has morphed Malmö into a creative melting pot, adding another layer to its long-established institutional scene.

“There’s Malmö Konsthall, the Konstmuseum and Moderna Museet i Malmö, so three big institutions in a small city which adds to the general climate,” describes Carl. “There are also very good collective workshops or places where you can work with very specific techniques and equipment, for example, KKV Monumental, Mediaverkstaden and Inter Art Center.”

Photo: Miriam Preis/

He adds that the prevalence of creatives in the city has led to the birth of many small artist-run spaces and independent galleries, such as KRETS, an art gallery and project space, Skånes Konstförening, an arts complex in an old mill, and Alta Art Space, a non-commercial artist-run exhibition space, cultural platform and studio collective.

Another of those spaces is Signal which was formed by a group of five artists in 1998. Today it is run by Carl, Elena Tzotzi and Joel Odebrant.

“The founders wanted to create a space where they could work with and present artists they found interesting. The people running Signal have changed organically but the whole thing is that we want it to be a place where artists can push their practice a little bit further.”

Installation view from Signal's current exhibition Love comes first. Photographer Lotten Pålsson

The exhibitions are often accompanied by a programme of complementing events including film screenings, discussions and other connecting activities. For example, ‘Digital Distress – Consumed by Infinity’, an exhibition which ended in March, was supported by a series of lectures related to the topic of digitalisation.

“We try to do as much as we can to create an interesting scene in Malmö,” says Carl. “The whole idea is that we want a place where we can collaborate and support artists to develop their work in a different way.”

‘Prepare to be surprised’

Like Carl, Mary Toreld is a Malmö-based artist wise to the advantages of collaboration. She is also aware that the life of an artist isn’t always exhibitions and opening nights.

Photo: Mary Toreld

“It’s a tough business and everyone is trying to survive. I felt I had to either quit the business or try to improve the work situation and conditions for artists. I went with the latter option,” she tells The Local.

Mary knew that in order to do this she’d need a base where she could bring artists together. In 2014, she found an old industry building, which she admits was out of her budget at the time, but decided to take a leap of faith.

“I took it anyway and decided to start a place where I could develop exhibition concepts to work on how we communicate art.”

That place became FRANK Gallery & Studios, a creative space with a gallery for exhibitions and workspaces for 20 professional artists from different disciplines.

Start planning your tour of Malmö’s art scene

“FRANK is very experimental, that’s our profile. We support all kinds of artists, they don’t need to be artists in the traditional sense. For example, we have a potter and a tattoo artist here at the moment.”

Photo: FRANK Gallery

Mary explains that while the tenants aren’t required to collaborate, they do from time to time and the result is often a unique combination of two seemingly disparate disciplines. For example, she recalls one set of tenants who work with sound collaborating with a fellow tenant who is a textile designer to create soundtracks to her patterns.

“It’s a good mix. Malmö is the perfect place for trying things out and letting them grow a little bit. You get the chance to see if it works or not,” says Mary.

As for the gallery itself, Mary says it’s equally as avant-garde.

“Prepare to be surprised! It’s a bit weird — you have to go through a garage entrance then five metres in front of you is a glass door. The gallery has a very high ceiling and whatever happens inside is experimental. It might not be obvious why but it’s always something new.”

She recalls an exhibition in FRANK’s opening year in which she sterilised the entire gallery, asked visitors to wash their hands, and then allowed them to touch all the art.

Photo: FRANK Gallery

“I was talking to people to figure out if this was bringing them closer to feeling something. Art is about feelings,” she says.

Although originally from north of Gothenburg, Mary feels like she’s found her place in Malmö. She’s free to fulfill her ambition with FRANK and is surrounded by other like-minded creatives keen to experiment and find new techniques.

“Malmö is the first place that’s ever felt like home to me. It doesn’t matter who you are here and you can be whoever you want.”

Find out more about what's on at FRANK on its Facebook page.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Malmö stad.

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Five Danish Netflix series that aren’t Borgen

It's usually the first programme people suggest when you start delving into Danish series. But there is more to Danish TV drama than Borgen. Here are our picks of some other Danish shows produced by Netflix.

Five Danish Netflix series that aren't Borgen

The ever-popular Borgen aired its fourth series on Netflix last year after a ten-year hiatus, with the global streaming giant having joined up with national broadcaster DR to give the political drama a much-anticipated comeback.

Borgen got a fourth series on an international streaming platform for a reason, as it is highly popular outside of Denmark. But if you want to explore the world of Danish series further, we have some suggestions.

Kastanjemanden (The Chestnut Man)

A Danish crime series based on the book of the same name by Søren Sveistrup, Kastanjemanden takes its title from a children’s rhyme, which is given a chilling makeover and forms a motif in the series.

Detective Naia Thulin (Danica Curcic) and her reluctant new partner, Mark Hess (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) investigate the murders of several women involving a mysterious chestnut figure left at the crime scenes. 

The six-part series was released on Netflix in 2021, to very good reviews. Described as “gripping” and “gruesome,” it’s classic Nordic-Noir successfully released on streaming. If you like DR’s The Killing and The Bridge, you’ll probably like this. Be prepared to be sitting on the edge of the sofa.

READ ALSO: Danish TV: The best shows to watch to understand Danish society


The six-part supernatural thriller from 2020 is full of suspense and mystery but may leave you with questions at the end.

It centres around a group of students celebrating their school graduation on a party bus (studenterkørsel) – a familiar summer sight in Denmark. But that’s where the familiarity ends, as mystery ensues when most of the students on the bus disappear. 

Nine-year old Astrid’s (also played by Curcic) older sister Ida is one of the students who goes missing and the series follows Astrid’s attempts, as an adult, to investigate what happened in 1999.

Mixing folklore, imagination and reality, with a modern setting, it’s been described as “a cross between Stranger ThingsMidsommar, minus the horror, and the French series The Returned.” 

The Rain

This is a dramatic post-apocalyptic series in which most of the population in Scandinavia is mysteriously wiped out by something carried in raindrops.

Led to safety by their scientist father, two young siblings (Alba August and Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) shield themselves in a bunker for six years but their father doesn’t return to them. They finally emerge and join a group of other survivors (led by Følsgaard, who like Curcic is a Danish Netflix regular) to search across Denmark and Sweden for their father and a cure for the lethal rain.

It has some spectacular visuals, notably of a post-apocalyptic central Copenhagen. Fans of dystopian fiction and Denmark might therefore find it appealing.

However, viewers should be prepared to endure some Amager-sized plot holes, contrived behaviour by characters and dangerous scenarios which could have been avoided if someone had just asked what seemed like a very obvious question five minutes earlier.

Despite this, the Guardian gave it a four-star review and said, “this tale of environmental disaster is about more than survival – it questions the very nature of humanity.”

Three series ran from 2018 to 2020 and are all available on Netflix.

READ MORE: Six weird and wonderful Danish film title translations


Rita is the name of the main character in this Danish comedy-drama. She is an unconventional chain-smoking teacher and single mum of three, who fiercely protects her students and pretty much does and says as she wants. Often wearing a leather jacket and giving an air of a teacher who doesn’t have rules, her pupils love her. But she often comes up against problems of her own, particularly when it comes to adults and her own three children. 

The show is not only popular in Denmark but internationally, as it reflects progressive Scandinavian values, with gritty plot lines covered in a funny way.

Filmed in Rødøvre, Copenhagen, the series first aired on TV2 but then moved to Netflix who co-produced the last three seasons. There are 40 episodes over five seasons. It ran from 2012 to 2020. Dutch and French versions have also been produced.


A Sci-fi mystery coming-of-age series that mixes Danish crime with the sci-fi genre.

Set in the fictitious Danish town of Middelbo, the series centres on 17-year old Emma. She discovers that her town, which was known to have once been hit my a meteor, isn’t what she thought it was.

Although Middelbo isn’t real, it reflects a typical quiet rural Danish town, although most of the series was filmed in and around Copenhagen. 

The six-part series aired in January 2022 and was created by the same people behind The Rain – Christian Potalivo and Jannik Tai Mosholt.