The influential pair on bringing emerging artists to audiences in Sweden, the UK and beyond
During the onset of the pandemic, the Swedish art visionaries Lovisa Berntson and India Bhattacharjee left thriving careers to launch their own Berntson Bhattacharjee Gallery. After many years following more traditional paths in the art world, they saw an opportunity to create a digitally-aware, travelling gallery with a focus on emerging artists and an inclusive curatorial programme.
Combining physical shows in Stockholm and London with a strong online presence, the friends are already making waves. Vogue Scandinavia sat down with Berntson and Bhattacharjee to discuss their work.
How would you describe the focus of Berntson Bhattacharjee Gallery?
As a nomadic space with a diverse outlook, we are committed to nurturing rising talent across Stockholm and London. However, even as we modernise, we believe in exhibiting IRL. The art historian Philip Hook described how art is like dating in that, “you can do it online, but sparks can only fly in the flesh.”
Works by Yulia Losilzon. Photo: NKT Studio
You both worked in art previously. How did you meet and establish your friendship?
We spent childhood summers in Falsterbo, which has become an art hub like The Hamptons. Our friendship truly blossomed whilst working at The Cultivist and studying at Sotheby’s in London respectively. We relied on one another for exhibitions — like needing someone to discuss the film when leaving the cinema.
You are both art collectors. How do you approach collecting emerging artists?
Perhaps inevitable given our shared outlook, we have similar taste. The artist Sola Olulode was one of our first studio visits. We recently bought two pieces from our Stockholm exhibition with Yulia Iosilzon, which was held in collaboration with Sotheby’s. They are now our own form of friendship bracelet.
Many new galleries are opening in Stockholm and thriving internationally.Lovisa Berntson and India Bhattacharjee
You have upheld a strong digital presence. Why is social media important to you?
We found it to be a very inclusive community within the context of art as everyone supports one another. It democratises and offers a direct line of communication to the artists in the studio. However, as with our focus on IRL exhibitions, the best way to get to know artists and collectors is to meet in person.
Your initial exhibition responded to the pandemic. How has it altered your perspective?
Our collectors became more interested in beautifying their homes, which also benefitted design in Stockholm. The initial exhibition was named "Stäying Sane" as we also felt that art helped our audience. However, we were also prevented from participating in art fairs like Chart in Copenhagen and Focus at Frieze London.
Part of "Selfhood," Berntson Bhattacharjee Gallery's exhibition in London in May 2021. Photo: NKT Studio
As female gallerists, which women do you admire across the art scene in Sweden?
The late artist Hilma af Klimt was impactful as well as Marika Wachmeister of The Wanås Foundation. Lovisa’s grandmother Elisabeth Wachmeister also lived at Wanås Castle, one of the best sculpture parks in Sweden. Early on, they exhibited a beautiful work by Louise Bourgeois that felt very radical.
How has the contemporary art scene in Stockholm evolved in recent years?
Beyond leading institutions like Moderna Museet, many new galleries are opening in Stockholm and thriving internationally. CFHILL took over a beautiful townhouse. The photography gallery Fotografiska is opening in London and New York. Auction houses like Bukowskis have also performed well.
Lovisa Berntson and India Bhattacharjee. Photo: NKT Studio
Are you interested in finding ways to collaborate with any Swedish brands in the future?
Yes, definitely. We work with the artist Lydia Blakeley who was commissioned by Acne. Their office has an amazing collection of Anton Alvarez and an approach whereby the artist isn’t surrendering their vision. We recently collaborated with Women’s Aid in London and admired their ethos, which is important to us.