Reepalu incites a boycott, while Becirov encourages dialogue
It is not without reason that Lars Vilks has trouble finding gallery owners willing to exhibit his art. Already the day after the gallery owner Henrik Rönnquist in Malmö, Sweden, announced that he will exhibit pictures by Vilks this summer, someone poured some blue-white substance on his front door.
“I do not get scared, merely pissed off. I do not understand what gets into people. The reason I want to exhibit the Lars Vilks pictures is that I like them. Period, done,” Henrik Rönnquist says to Dispatch International.
Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrats), spokesman for the Malmö City Council, was quick to appear in the media with tough statements about the Vilks exhibit.
“Of course he has the right to exhibit what he considers ‘art’ wherever he wants. But I have understood that it is rather poor art, and I consider this more a use of the gallery for the purpose of a political manifestation. Vilks is increasingly connected to xenophobic groups on the extreme right. I hope that not even a single person will visit the gallery,” Reepalu says in a statement to the Swedish news agency TT, a statement that also marks his debut as an art critic.
Bejzat Becirov, the deputy manager of the Islamic Center in Malmö, thinks in contrast that in spite of the indignation, one should offer an open hand to Vilks by inviting him to visit the mosque for a dialogue.
“There he can explain himself without anyone threatening him. Anyone can make a mistake, including myself, including Lars, anybody, but it is never too late to regret,” Becirov says to the Swedish television channel TV4.
Lars Vilks immediately accepted the invitation, but to the suggestion that he might have something to excuse himself for made the artist post this entry on his blog:
”It could be that the aim of the friendly invitation is to bring the hated object to his knees in an apology. That is clearly unthinkable, as I do not believe I made any mistakes that deserve an apology. Questioning authority can be offensive for its adherents, but when it concerns public debate and politics, in a democratic society one needs to bear this.”
Henrik Rönnquist explains that he always picks artists that he likes himself. When in 2005 he was the first to exhibit the paintings of Carolina Gynning, he had to suffer much scorn and ridicule.
“But already then I saw the potential that Carolina had. And I don’t care what others say, I show the art that I personally like.”
Since then Carolina Gynning has become an established and productive artist of great popularity, selling paintings worth millions [of Swedish kroner – 1 Skr = €0.12] each .
The statement by Ilmar Reepalu that Lars Vilks creates ”bad art”, and the instruction from the City Council to the citizens of Malmö not to visit the exhibition, was shocking, says Henrik Rönnquist.
“Reepalu is obviously a coward, and here he has also made himself guilty of steamrolling in his attempt to cause trouble for a businessman in Malmö. But his suggestion will merely generate more visitors for me, so I suppose I should thank him for the free advertising!
“And considering that Reepalu apparently didn’t even see the paintings of Vilks personally, I certainly welcome him to pay me a visit.”
By Ingrid Carlqvist and Maria Celander