The decision to go to Stockholm in late Autumn rested on my desire to check out Scandinavia while avoiding both its below-freezing temperatures and astronomical price tags. We were particularly lucky in both respects; however, the early afternoon sunsets were a tad disconcerting and demanded exceptional timetabling to make the most of the city's numerous galleries.

Moderna Museet Stockholm, exterior © Moderna Museet / Åsa Lundén
Moderna Museet Stockholm, exterior
© Moderna Museet / Åsa Lundén

After a stroll through the Old Town to marvel at glittering store windows filled with brightly-coloured sweets, and sign after sign advertising "Glögg" (Swedish mulled wine), we checked out the Moderna Museet's free late night for their permanent collection and a large-scale photography exhibition by Wolfgang Tillmans. We thoroughly enjoyed this offering from the 2000 Turner Prize winner, which included his captivating portraits, still lifes, astronomical investigations and photogram experiments. The installation, including newspaper clippings, posters and other ephemera, gave us the impression that we were on a journey through the artist's creative success. Tillmans is known for pushing the boundaries and exploring marginalised subjects in a brazen, honest manner, which when combined with the beauty of his landscapes and abstract compositions were a satisfying insight into this creative master.

Following this intense encounter, we continued on to the permanent collection – which we expected, like all other European museums, to feature a smattering of Monets, Picassos, and Warhols. We were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by some of our personal favourites, including Vladimir Tatlin's Model for Monument to the Third International (1920), Francis Bacon'sDouble portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach (1964) and Yinka Shinobare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle (perhaps most known from Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth). I would definitely recommend visiting this gallery, and perhaps checking out the Architectural Museum nearby.
 
Our first full day in Stockholm was organised expertly around cinnamon buns and sunlight, as well as catching the end of More than Sound at Bonniers Konsthall. This was my favourite exhibition in Stockholm: a combination of minimalist exhibition design; lovely staff; an innovative and interactive approach; and a selection of sound artists who dispel the myth of sound art as a horrid assault on the eardrums. A highlight was Haroon Mirza's Untitled Song Featuring Untitled Works by James Clarkson, an installation of disused furniture and equipment that provided an unusual take on the orchestra. Another surprise was Matti Kallioinen's Nervous Manifold which caught us off guard: it inflated limp fabrics into expanding creatures with flashing lights and billows of smoke. The music emanating from dark depths of the darkness appeared to dictate the ballet-like movement of these inflated forms, making us wonder whether we might be enveloped in its growing "limbs". Following the tour, we visited Ayse Erkmen's Ghost, installed in a room full of windows: the perfect contemplative space for the exquisite voice of a soprano singing Beethoven's Gluck, gluckzum neuen Jahr. The view onto the industrial railway tracks and the grey autumn skies made one feel quite serene amongst the hanging speakers and naked light bulbs, presenting an alternative side to the medium of sound art.

I had expected to spend most of my time in the more alternative district of Södermalm while in Stockholm, but although it did feature some fantastic cafes (like Louie Louie) and vintage stores (Stockholms Stadsmissionen), its artistic offerings were surpassed by those of the city's suburbs. Further afield in Tensta, we visited Tensta Konsthall's exhibition Doing What You Want, which focused on Marie-Louise Ekman, Sister Corita Kent, Mladen Stilinovic and Martha Wilson's work from the late 1960s–80s. I was slightly disturbed by Ekman's paintings of domestic interiors occupied with figures that transgressed numerous political, erotic and artistic taboos in quite a blatant, unexpected manner. These brightly-coloured but simply-painted canvases sat uneasily with Wilson's conceptual performances and Corita Kent's language-based graphic prints. I wasn't entirely sure what the exhibition was trying to achieve in this selection and came away feeling underwhelmed and confused.

Our last day in Stockholm involved a brisk walk through the Djurgärden on our way to Magasin 3, located in a former warehouse. Their major exhibition was on Anton Henning, described as a cross between Picasso and Duchamp. Unfortunately my curator friend and I did not agree with this claim, and were a bit underwhelmed by Henning's paintings, which seem to channel Yves Tanguy in their biomorphic forms rather than the cubist experiments of Picasso. His sculptures were of interest, though, in their mix of materials and smooth undulation, inviting comparisons with Brancusi and Moore, but they did not possess the monumentality of these master craftsmen. However, the highpoint was definitely Something Turned into a Thing, a group exhibition featuring James Turrell, Sol LeWitt and Wim Delvoye. I adored Tom Friedman's toothpaste painting Untitled (1989) and to experience Felix Gonzalez-Torres' Untitled (For Stockholm) (1992) in the flesh was spectacular. It was a successful exhibition in that it brought together artists who reinterpreted everyday objects in innovative ways.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with Stockholm's artistic offerings – I can't say I was that surprised, given their reputation for exquisite furniture, innovative fashion and brilliant music groups. However, the range of venues and the mix of established and emerging artists are engaging, and I intend to keep an eye on this trend-setting city's exhibition calendars.