The Cultural Tourist: The Tate Modern of Stockholm

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The Independent Travel

Stockholm's museum of modern art, the Moderna Museet, one of the world's most remarkable art collections, reopened in February with an enormous party and crowds have been passing through its doors ever since.

Stockholm's museum of modern art, the Moderna Museet, one of the world's most remarkable art collections, reopened in February with an enormous party and crowds have been passing through its doors ever since. Its Swedish director, Lars Nittve, used to be the director of Tate Modern in London, and has brought home some of the lessons of that astoundingly popular institution, not least free entry and a high-quality restaurant and café.

The building is not as dramatic as Tate Modern - it is a modest and minimalist design by the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo - but it is probably more useful in terms of display. Unlike Tate Modern, which groups its permanent collection according to themes, the Moderna Museet uses a traditional chronological sequence. This plays to its strengths as it has a much stronger and balanced collection of 20th-century art than Tate Modern.

There are exceptional galleries of Dada and the Surrealists, Russian Constructivists, American Abstract Expressionists and Pop Art, as well as fine works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Brancusi, Giacometti, Cézanne, de Chirico and Magritte. It owes much of its quality to the taste of its colourful director between 1960 and 1973, Pontus Hulten. A substantial exhibition drawn from Hulten's own art collection is on show until 18 April at the Moderna Museet with works by Duchamp, Ernst, Warhol, Johns, Lichtenstein and Oldenburg. Later in the year, two big shows will be devoted to Meret Oppenheim and the photographer Man Ray. They will run concurrently from 8 September to 31 October. Further information from the excellent website (in an English version) at www.modernamuseet.se

Athens will be the focus of sporting attention this summer when the Olympics return to their native land, but, apart from the Parthenon, the city's cultural attractions are not at all well known. Classicist Elizabeth Speller, author of the excellent Following Hadrian: A Second-Century Journey Through the Roman Empire, has just produced Athens: A New Guide (Granta Books, £9.99). Unlike most guidebooks, it is a delight to read even if you never intend going there. And if you do, it will reveal much of the city's cultural riches, from museums and archaeology to food markets and late-night rebetika bars.

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