The Middle Room
– Filip Rahim Hansson
Between two buildings a new form emerges, perhaps one of the world’s smallest galleries.
It began with a walk down a busy sunny boulevard in Malmö, an old pedestrian street filled with fashion and flower boutiques and ‘French’ cafes. Soon, the pavement merged with the rushing traffic of Södra Förstadsgatan, characterised by its family-owned bodegas and Syrian restaurants, and the horizon then started to reveal Möllevångstorget. That’s when I spotted a small crack along one of the building’s facades. In the middle, sandwiched by trash and covered with dust, sat a small display cabinet, just about the size of an A1 paper sheet. It had been used as a promotion window back in its days and later by a travel agency. Forgotten in this abandoned place, everything told me that the display window’s commercial value was long through, and all it could accumulate now was dust.
But despite this first unfavourable impression I saw its potential crystal clear. My mind assembled together a gallery, gazing towards the horizon and the city square, with art that would always be available to everyone who asked for it. With time, the cabinet has transformed from a place for commercial display to a platform for artists to manifest views of their own chosen topics.
As an artist in the public sphere, with a foot in the door of social work and an eye pointed towards a better and brighter future, I saw this small cabinet as a space for dialogue. Naturally, I was met with scepticism when I started formulating the idea of this mini-gallery. Questions such as, whether and why I should be the sole occupier of this space – which led me to the realisation that I shouldn’t be. I’d never wished for a monopoly over any public space. Taking thought into action, I decided to share the opportunity and transform this old commercial window into an exhibition case: an ongoing conversation of artists’ ideas as a platform for showing art where all who wished to participate and have their voice be heard could apply. With the size of an A1 paper I had to call it galleri A1.
As an artist without formal training, I always had to prove myself in seemingly unfair ways to convince the audience or more correctly the holders of the already known art platforms, such as galleries or museums, that I was just as worthy of their attention as any formally trained artist. That’s why I saw no need for any inherent hierarchy or favouritism for any particular training or educational background in the application process to exhibit. I deferred from judging art pieces’ execution too harshly since the point was not skill but rather what the artist could, in concept, bring to the discussion of how we use public spaces which proved to be something that shined through any type of work, whatever level or training the artist had. Through the project I wanted to find loose threads and tie a knot with other artists. I could do so thanks to contributions from other like-minded people, giving me hope that this former commercial site could serve my purpose perfectly. From something that told the consumer what to think and strive for, to a circular and constantly regenerating conversation between the formally trained and the homemade.
Today, the gallery is fully booked until the end of 2024, boasting a proud mix of various artists, each portraying a unique point of view through their art. I’ve included pieces from friends who studied at art academies, self-taught artists, as well as others who treat art as a hobby.
My mini-gallery, Gallery A1, is a place of possibilities. Like many other things in my artistic process, I appreciate these middle grounds that are ambiently strewn across urban areas, promoting ideas for change in their subtle ways. During autumn 2022, we opened a sibling gallery in Gävle; a small step towards my dream of taking the concept internationally. The gallery offers possibilities in its limitations. Because of its small size, there is not a lot of art that can fit, but thanks to that; the art pieces are concise in their argument. I also don’t need any staff to watch the exhibit, and it is on show 24/7. There’s also the breaking of traditional conventions; there is no typical gallery room with pathologically clinical white walls, the art is in its own small space, confined in an urban setting that it is inherently a part of. That way, I’m not separating the art from its social context like it would otherwise be, but it’s still held safe in the confines that the display window offered from the beginning. In the future I see possibilities for expansions, opening up a network to promote the same idea amongst other cities and towns.
I’m proud to say that I have not built a space for showing pretty pictures, but provided a platform where art, artist and the audience are invited to tie together the proverbial loose ends in our public discourse and question our reality. Our general perspectives on economic roles in the public environment have to change. I hope that gallery A1 is on that path. Because right in the middle of this unassuming middle room in Möllan, I’ve started a discussion, and I invite you to join in.
Gallery A1’s first international exchange with Czech gallery Ukradená Galerie Český Krumlov. This is just one example of how the format of the gallery can be used to create international exchanges and interesting meetings.
Filip Rahim Hansson is an artist whose work sets out to stretch the boundaries and frames of reference in our society. Central to his practice are questions surrounding perfection as something that is constituted by change and acceptance – perspectives that are guided by his studies of Dharma.
Material as well as contextual versatility are key for Rahim Hansson. Some of his work is on the playful side, some of it political, all joined under the artist’s vision that art is telling us what we don’t yet know. Through collaboration, his own gallery and social projects, Rahim Hansson spreads the idea that creativity has its own unique form of perfection, beyond common notions and societal conventions.