The Scandinavian Design Show in Milwaukee (With a Frida Hansen Link)

I’m excited for a road trip to Milwaukee next week, for the opening of the blockbuster exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980.

The exhibit was most recently at LACMA, the Los Angeles Museum of Art (Oct. 9, 2022-Feb. 5, 2023). Janelle Zara write a nice overview for Dwell magazine, “The Story of Scandinavian Design Isn’t What You Think It Is.” The exhibit is accompanied by a beautiful and readable book of the same name.

Ordering information and description from LACMA. Ordering information from Amazon.

The exhibit was also mounted in Oslo during the summer of 2022 at the National Museum-Architecture, part of the Nasjonalmuseet. (description here) The museum added a 3D virtual tour to their website, which I found interesting for “walking” around and finding the interesting textiles that were included.

Source: Screenshot from the virtual tour,

The Frida Hansen Link!

When the curators of the Scandinavian design show were first searching for important textiles showing links between Scandinavia and the U.S., they tried to find Frida Hansen’s much-praised tapestry, Sørover (Southward). It was purchased in 1903 by Berthea Aske Berg and exhibited many times in the early 20th century. One person they asked was me. I felt pretty confident I could find it — how could a ten-foot-high tapestry of such renown just disappear? And then? I didn’t find it…I wrote about it…it was found in 2020…it’s now in the exhibit! You can read several articles about the tapestry in the past and present at the site of the Norwegian Textile Letter, “Frida Hansen’s Sørover.”

Frida Hansen. Sørover (Southward), 1903. Photo: Peter Pap

You could also listen to a webinar I am presenting for Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum on the story of Sørover — its introduction to an adoring public in the U.S., its mysterious disappearance for almost 90 years, and its return to the world.

The Mystery of the Missing Swans and Maidens: A Frida Hansen Tapestry Tale (Webinar) with Robbie LaFleur

Sunday, April 2 | 4:00-5:00 pm CT | Location: Online on Zoom

Back in 1903, Norwegian-born socialite and tapestry teacher Berthea Aske Bergh was determined to show Americans the brilliance of Norwegian billedvev, or tapestry. She traveled back to Norway and purchased Sørover (Southward), a tapestry of swans and maidens with shimmering threads from the famous Art Nouveau artist Frida Hansen.

Southward was an important, often-displayed monumental tapestry, so when the curators for the blockbuster show, Scandinavian Design in the United States, 1890-1980, sought key textiles, Frida Hansen’s tapestry was top of mind. But where was this 11 x 10 foot weaving now? Only a few grainy black-and-white photos and many glowing descriptions remained.

In January 2021, nearly 90 years after Southward was last displayed publicly, noted rug dealer Peter Pap opened a Tupperware container in a storage building in Maine. He unfolded a woven treasure in dusty, but pristine condition, and with a quick google search, he learned it was a long-lost Frida Hansen tapestry.

The veil of mystery, as well as the dust of decades, has been removed from Southward. The Frida Hansen masterpiece was restored to the world in time to add to the Scandinavian Designexhibit during its recent run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the Milwaukee Museum of Art, showing March 24-July 23, 2023.

Join Robbie LaFleur for this timely webinar to celebrate the life and work of Frida Hansen and, especially, to hear about the Southward tapestry mystery as it unfolded.

Registration required for this free event. Sign up here.

I will definitely report from the opening, about seeing Sørover in the show, and about the many other interesting textiles.