BAC 20th Anniversary

In 2021, we celebrated Baltic Art Center’s 20th anniversary online through a series of visits in BAC’s archive of unique artists projects that have been commissioned since we opened to the public in 2001. We made our first visit to the archive together with Johan Pousette the founding director of BAC. From his temporary office in Washington, he talks about the establishing of a new art institution on Gotland and the artists and art projects that shaped the BAC programme.

In February 2001, the doors to the BAC premises in the completely newly renovated Björkanderska warehouse in Visby harbour opened to the public. It was the Swedish choreographer Efva Lilja’s collaboration with the American artist Jene Highstein that was being presented to the audience – the dance performance A Gentle Cut. The opening of BAC had been preceded by intensive preparatory work for several years. The association Östersjöns konstcenter / Baltic Art Center, was formed as early as 1999 by several art organizations around the Baltic Sea, including the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Vilnius and in Tallinn and Mare Articum in St. Petersburg. However, the initiative for the international contemporary art arena BAC was taken by the County Administrative Board on Gotland and the Swedish Arts Council. The renovation of Björkanderska warehouse was funded by EU and the municipality of Gotland. The new art institution was supported by EU funds, the municipality, Baltic Sea Region initiatives and the Swedish Arts Council. In 2007 the art gallery was closed due to lack of funding for the exhibitions programme and a decision was taken to transform BAC into a residency.

During the six years that BAC operated as an art gallery the institution developed its own art and artist-centred profile and presented 25 exhibitions and numerous events to the local audience on Gotland. Both established and younger artists came to test new approaches that changed the focus of their art practices. When the art gallery was transformed into a residence, the profile remained: the endeavour to support artists to explore, experiment and test new things in a place where this was allowed – even desirable. As a result, Gotland is one of the places in Sweden that figures most frequently in works by international visual artists who have created works in the country.

Today, BAC is a project-based international residency for contemporary art and has left the original address, but the core of the programme, supporting artistic productions and processes, remains the same. The focus of a BAC residency is the collaborations and the project that the artist carries out on site on Gotland and in exchange with people and stakeholders across the island. Since its inception BAC has produced approximately 100 art projects with artists from all over the world.

To celebrate 20 years on the Swedish and international art scene we will present some of the projects that have been crucial for the development of BAC as an art institution in dialogue with people from the Swedish art scene with a connection to its history.