Free Port


Prologue by David Neuman, Director Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
Free Port, essay by Richard Julin, Curator Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
Porto Franco, essay by Jesper Meijling, freelance Producer and Architect

Exhibition catalogue no 24
No of pages: 
73, color, illustrated
soft cover
Graphic design: Mattias Givell

Language: Swedish and English
Year: 2001
Publisher: Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
ISBN: 91-972986-8-9

Available for purchase in our museum entrance for 300 SEK (approx. 30 EUR)


Free Port by Richard Julin

When Stockholm’s Free Port was inaugurated on the 27th of September 1926 a filmmaker was present. In the film that was made, one can see the inauguration ceremony with king Gustav V on a throne dressed in spruce twigs. A large crowd had come to the harbour to be present for the ceremony. There were speeches and medals that were awarded to the harbours initiator, merchant John Josephson as well as to the building’s foremen. Debate as to build a free trade harbor in Stockholm or not had been going on for years. When the harbor finally became a reality and opened, it constituted a major event for the city. The throne used during the ceremony was designed by the architect Åke Tengelin, who also designed warehouses [magasin] 1, 2, and 3. Magasin 3 was designed in 1925. The Free Port was Stockholm’s free trade zone for 60 years. Until 1986, the area was gated and there were customs depots at the entrances and exits. It was a location close to the city that had been built exclusively for receiving, warehousing, and transporting goods.

In the film, you can see how new, exotic products arrive by ship from all over the world. The dockworkers carry sacks of coffee beans from Central America, crates of apples from Australia, bananas from Jamaica, and casks of Madeira wine. There were also car parts that were to be assembled into cars at the Ford factory designed by Uno Åhrén in 1930. The film shows a great deal of activity in the harbor. There are numerous workers, steamships with streamers, trains in motion, and many trucks. The dock workers loading and unloading the freight all have nicknames they acquired at some point and carried with them ever since: All Our Days, Kolumbus, Bimbo, Seven Books, Castro, Eternity, Greta Garbo, Crybaby, Bla Bla, The Cultural Minister, The Moonlight Murderer, Rembrandt, Scotland Yard, Sputnik, The Sceptic, and Manic.

A part of the area, Lindarängen, presently the container harbor, became Sweden’s first horse racetrack in 1894. The rings of the various lanes are still visible in aerial photographs taken during the Free Port’s first year. During the Stockholm Olympics of 1912, all the equestrian events were held there. Later, the area was made into an international airport. Amphibian and seaplanes flew from there to Stettin, Visby, and Helsinki, among other destinations. The “Flight Hotel” was located adjacent to the small airport and had a restaurant. In addition to travelers, the hotel also had some long-term guests who paid 75 SEK a month. The only remnant of the airport today is Sven Markelius’s hangar built in 1929, now used as a storage space. Some of the ships arriving at the harbor brought plant seeds from other countries along with their cargoes. As a result, there are certain plants in the harbor area that are not found anywhere else in Sweden. An example is sisymbrium orientale, the oriental hedge mustard.

The exhibition Free Port at Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall derives from this type of information its point of departure, though not its theme. The artists participating in this exhibition all received a compendium informing them of the history of the Free Port. They have used the site’s history to make works that continue their own artistic practices. (…)