A Design Lover's Guide to Scandinavia's Under-the-radar Art Cities 

© Chris Tonnesen

Some of Scandinavia’s most cutting-edge places for art and design lie outside the major cities, in the heart of the countryside.

Wanås, Sweden 

Located on the grounds of a 16th-century castle and organic dairy farm in Skåne, Sweden, Wanås Konst features monumental pieces from Marina Abramović, Robert Wilson, and Jeppe Hein, to name a few. The art park was founded in 1987 by Marika Wachtmeister, a lawyer who married into the family that has presided over the rural estate for eight generations.

Today, it has a permanent collection of around 70 pieces, but it also hosts temporary exhibitions, artist talks, and dance performances. In addition, the property has an 11-room hotel (rooms from $480), a farm-to-table restaurant, and a design shop. But the highlight is still the art trail, which offers surprises around every corner, whether it’s the centuries-old stone wall into which Jenny Holzer has carved a different truism every few feet or Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s Alice in Wonderland– style tableau deep in the forest. 

An Anish Kapoor installation at Galleri F 15, in Moss, Norway. Courtesy Gallery F 15

Moss, Norway

A strategic shipping port dating back to the Viking era, the coastal city of Moss—just an hour south of Oslo—might seem like an unexpected place to discover world-class art. But for some time, it has been fertile ground for the creative class.

Edvard Munch moved there in 1913 and spent several years making some of his most famous paintings, including Workers on Their Way Home. These days, Moss is better known as the location for Momentum, the Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, which highlights young Scandinavian artists. Previous themes include “Alienation,” with pieces exploring everything from the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in Scandinavia to environmental issues.

Events for the biennial are typically held at Galleri F 15, opened in the 1960s. The gallery, which is set in a 19th-century farmhouse, is now part of Punkt Ø, an institution funded by the municipality. “I tap into the context of place, the landscape, and our history and architecture,” explains director Dag Aak Sveinar. For an Anish Kapoor exhibition, running until mid-October, Sveinar installed several pieces, such as Sky Mirror, outside, encouraging a dialogue with the landscape. “It’s not a white cube, he says. “It’s a habitat.”

Denmark’s Bornholms Art Museum. Courtesy Destination Bornholm

Bornholm, Denmark 

A dot in the Baltic Sea between northern Germany and the southern tip of Sweden, Bornholm is a bucolic island of green fields, thatched-reed farmhouses, and gorgeous coastal cliffs. It is also renowned for its ceramics: Since the 19th-century, local artisans have been turning the island’s high-quality clay into terra-cotta vases and dishes at factories like the 150-year- old Hjorths Fabrik, still in operation and open for tours. You can also learn about the legacy of the Bornholm school—a group of painters who lived there in the early 1900s, inspired by the ethereal light—at the Bornholms Art Museum

A whole new generation of artisans is now thriving, their creativity sparked by the island’s raw pastoral landscapes. There’s the recently opened Danish Ceramic Factory, a cooperative founded by 19 artists and designers, and Grøenbechs Gård, an exhibition space, and center for arts and crafts. There’s also a textile and glass-making scene, with emerging artists like Lise Eggers and Bente Hammer experimenting with techniques and forms.