The exhibition Bad Art? 1,000 Birch Board Pictures from Sweden is the largest collection of its kind in the world, and will make its U.S. debut at the Nordic Heritage Museum on Friday, November 30. In addition, the Museum will feature several concurring events starting on Wednesday, November 28 and continuing throughout the winter.

The more than 1,000 mixed-media works featured in this visiting exhibition from the Backlund & Håkansson Collection in Sweden represent a ubiquitous form of folk art from unknown origins in northern Europe. Sold as tourist souvenirs for more than a century, these humble objects have spread around the world.

“The collection itself may be viewed as an art piece set in a particular time,” said chief curator Lizette Gradén in a recent press release. “It was compiled in the late 20th century and early 21st century, and can be understood as an expression of the collectors’ experience of a Sweden infused by globalization and cultural change. As a display outside the Nordic countries adapted by curators at the Nordic Heritage Museum, the collection is re-interpreted once again.”


Although these works were made in large numbers — as is apparent in this expansive exhibition — they were not mass produced. Instead, the artists created these pieces individually; typically by gluing postcards to a thin, diagonally sliced pieces of tree trunk — in Sweden, preferably from birches. The postcard images were then hand painted to the edges of the oval slices of wood and sometimes included three-dimensional objects. Early pieces were simply painted landscapes with no postcards.

The pictures selected for this particular exhibition celebrate folk art or vernacular art. The birch board pictures, which were once displayed in private homes, restaurants, gift shops, and cultural clubs have now made their way into museums. Such art tells about aesthetic impulse, creativity, and production, but also about the transition from living culture to heritage.

Read more, at Bad Art Nordic Heritage Museum is located at 3014 NW 67th Street in Seattle. Call 206.789.5707 for more info.