A TASTE OF SWEDISH STYLE

Byline: Marcy Medina

LOS ANGELES — Say Sweden and most Americans think Absolut, Volvo, H&M or Ikea. But as Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria hoped to impress during her first visit here, the lifestyle and aesthetic of her country extends far beyond those household names.
In inaugurating the “SMAK” exhibit at Lampa Mobler gallery Thursday night, the 24-year-old Princess stamped her royal approval on the growing community of Swedish artists working — and pushing the stylistic envelope — here and abroad.
“We use a lot of wood, very simple, clean cuts and lines, and lots of air and light,” said the Princess Wednesday afternoon during a visit to the very spare and airy Getty Center.
The Princess’s three-day whirlwind tour included visits to Frank Gehry’s studio, Hollywood and Universal Studios, the Pasadena Art College of Design, Huntington Gardens and a stay at the seaside Shutters on the Beach Hotel in Santa Monica.
Anita Ekman, Swedish consul in Los Angeles and host and organizer of “SMAK” — which ran only four days and closed last night — believes her native culture is so at home here because “L.A. is very receptive to new thinking. It’s easy to present expressions from other cultures in the open lifestyle here. Swedish style is already here, but this exhibit will take it to a new level.”
Ekman explained that the exhibition name is the Swedish word for “taste.” But it also loosely translates into anything with sophistication and style.
Nena Jobs, who created felt rugs shown in the exhibit (as well as designs for H&M and Ikea) described her country’s aesthetic as simple and functional.
“Of course, you have to come to Sweden to discover we have bad taste, too,” she laughed. “But in general, we don’t overdecorate.”
There were wares by fashion and interior designer Pia Wallen, whose classic wool blankets and slippers sell at Totem in New York’s SoHo neighborhood and San Francisco; clothes by Eero Kiovisto, Bjorn Dahlstrom and David Design; furniture by Bruno Mathsson; MTV award-winning music videos by director Jonas Akerlund (known for Madonna’s “Ray of Light”); and commercials by local film company Traktor, of Levi’s, Diesel and Nike fame.
Traktor co-founder Richard Ulfvengren decided to move his firm to Santa Monica from Stockholm two years ago, when several Clio awards prompted a windfall of work.
“We couldn’t react to all the offers sitting in cold, dark Sweden, so we moved all 24 employees, bought eight new Volvos and got offices close to the ocean,” he said by cell phone in Stockholm, where he still works once a month.
It’s those continuing ties to the homeland that inspire pride among SMAK’s participants — even as they talked of the princess.
“You see her out at museums and nightclubs and restaurants with friends,” said furniture designer Thomas Sandell, who designed the exhibition space. “She’s not hiding in the castle, and I know she will be a very modern queen.”
Apparently, a social life is a relative thing. As she prepared to get into her official silver Volvo S80, the princess admitted, “There are good nightclubs in Stockholm, yet I don’t get to go out too much.”