“She – A Cathedral” was shown at Moderna Museet on 4 June–4 September, 1966. It is one of the most famous and widely published exhibitions in Moderna Museet’s history. This archival exhibition presents the event from different perspectives.
The exhibition ”She – A Cathedral” consisted of a giant sculpture, a “cathedral” (23 m wide and 6 m tall) in the form of a pregnant woman lying on her back, which the audience could enter. Inside, visitors encountered an aquarium full of goldfish, a two-seated sofa for lovers, a bar, an exhibition with paintings, a small cinema that showed a Greta Garbo movie, a slide for kids, and many other surprises. At the apex of the belly was a peephole where visitors could stick their head out and have an overview of the entire exhibition space.
The installation was shown at Moderna Museet from 4 June until 4 September 1966 as a result of a collaboration between the artists Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, P.O. Ultvedt, and the Museum’s director Pontus Hultén. This project has been discussed and written about more than any other in the Museum’s history. The catalogue ”Hon – en historia” (1967) presents the entire creative process and the background.
When the exhibition ended, ”She” was torn down, and the pieces were thrown away, since the demolition was part of the project. But the head still remains and gives us an idea of the installation in the main hall of Moderna Museet’s former premises which are now ArkDes. The project has been interpreted from a feminist perspective; as a happening with roots in the mediaeval carnivals; and as a type of performative exhibition, where visitors were invited to interact with art.
The preparations for mounting the exhibition ”Hon – en katedral” (She – A Cathedral) were thoroughly documented by a number of photographers as well as the making of a film. The film that was created by Magnus Wibom (1939–2010), brother of the film producer Anna-Lena Wibom, who was married to Pontus Hultén at the time, is shown in the exhibition.
The photographer Lütfi Özkök (1923–2017), who undertook several commissions for the Museum, began work on photographing the project. He was not able to complete the task, which was then completed by his colleague Hans Hammarskiöld (1925–2012). The familiar colour images, which were also published in the book ”Hon – en historia” (She – A History, 1967) are by Hammarskiöld. The extensive and detailed documentation was a vital part of the project and has become significant for the historical record.
Among the elements inside Hon was a cinema that showed a scene from the silent film ”Luffar-Petter” (Peter the Tramp, 1921) with Greta Garbo in one of the roles. There was a fully-equipped bar with a vending machine in one of the breasts of the sculpture. And in one of the thighs was a miniature exhibition of paintings that looked as though they had been made by artists such as Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet and Jean Fautrier, though they were “fakes” created by Ulf Linde. The word “fake” had been painted in the different styles on each painting. Duchamp expert and member of the Swedish Academy Ulf Linde (1929–2013), had a background as a writer, a jazz musician, an art critic for Dagens Nyheter and a teacher at the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm. He was a curator at Moderna Museet from 1973 to 1976 and went on to be director of the Thielska galleri on Djurgården for almost twenty years from 1977.
Niki de Saint Phalle created her Nanas in various shapes and sizes from 1964 onwards. The inspiration for these works came from her friend Clarice Rivers, who was pregnant at the time. The Nanas bear witness to Saint Phalle’s belief in the divine nature of women and are frequently taken to represent a feminist perspective in her art. Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely had a shared interest in monsters, but in Saint Phalle the monsters are symbols of something evil that consumes the feelings it devours, something that has to be tamed. Pontus Hultén is depicted with great warmth and playfulness by Saint Phalle in her portraits.
Jean Tinguely and Pontus Hultén got to know one another during the 1950s and continued to collaborate for the rest of their lives. Hultén would write a book about Tinguely in 1972, for example. Tinguely is well represented in Hultén’s own collection, which he donated to Moderna Museet in 2005. ”Monstret i Skogen” (the Monster in the Forest), or ”Cyklopen” (the Cyclops), makes reference to the one-eyed anthropophagic giants of Greek mythology and was an artistic project that Tinguely ran with Niki de Saint Phalle from 1969 to 1994 and would also incorporate the efforts of several other artist friends of Tinguely. The exhibition shows a number of sketches from this project. The work is situated in Milly-La-Forêt south of Paris and is owned by the French state, to which it was donated.