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Öyvind Fahlström
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
São Paulo
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Death Place: 
A Swedish painter and graphic artist whose works influenced European Pop Art, Öyvind Fahlström was also a poet, journalist, playwright and filmmaker. Born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1928, his mother was Swedish and his Norwegian father was a translator. Sent to Sweden in 1939 to spend the summer with relatives, he was stranded there by the outbreak of World War II. His parents joined him in Stockholm in 1948, the year he became a Swedish citizen. After compulsory military service, he studied archeology and art history at the University of Stockholm. During the 1950s he wrote poetry, literary criticism, translations and published regularly in the Swedish press, while dividing his time among Stockholm, Paris and Rome. In 1952 he married Birgitta Tamm; they divorced in 1958. His first large work of art, Opera (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia Collection), a room-sized drawing made with felt-tipped pen, ink and gouache, was completed in 1953 and shown by a Florence gallery that year and in a Paris gallery in 1955. His literary work, Manifesto for Concrete Poetry, was published in 1954. Fahlström had solo exhibitions in Stockholm in 1955 and Paris in 1959. He spent two years in Paris in the late 1950s and married the Swedish painter Barbro Östlihn (b. 1930) in 1960. Fahlström received a grant from the Swedish-American Foundation for studies in New York City and moved there in 1961; he lived and worked in New York for the rest of his career, while spending summers in Sweden, France and Italy. He began incorporating images from the mass media and comic strips and three-dimensional objects into his art. He created his first “variable painting” in 1962, in which magnetized elements could be moved around the painting’s surface, the second in his Sitting… series (Stockholm: Moderna Museet). His graphic art includes a 1964 color lithograph published as one of the 62 prints illustrating Walassee Ting’s poetry in the book 1¢ Life. During the 1960s and 1970s Fahlström organized several “Happenings” performed at the Moderna Museet and on Swedish television, wrote stage and radio plays and newspaper articles, made films and television documentaries and exhibited in solo and group shows, including the 1964 Venice Biennale. He separated from Barbro Östlihn in 1975 and began living with Sharon Avery, whom he married in 1976. Fahlström died of colon cancer in Stockholm on November 9, 1976. (TNB 3/2104) Selected bibliography: Öyvind Fahlström. Exhibition catalog. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1982.