Miriam Bäckström

Perfect Storm – Miriam Bäckström’s Tapestry for Lund City Hall, 2024

Lund City Hall has a new site-specific artwork, which hasn’t happened since the building was
inaugurated in 1967. It is a work in the spirit of the architect Klas Anshelm, mirroring his
ambition for the building: to create a meeting place the creates contact between the outside and the inside.

Miriam Bäckström

Miriam Bäckström was born in Stockholm in 1967. Her artistic practice may be
described as an ongoing study of how the human mind grasps the relationship between image and reality. Her early works were photographs of homes without their inhabitants and deserted museum halls, in some sense stage productions in search of their characters. They were followed by performative cinematic studies with a theatrical bent. In recent years she has returned to still photography and developed a unique technique for tapestry weaving based on photography and digital technology.


The work for City Hall consists of a thirty-metre-long tapestry, divided into five panels. The design has been adapted to a specifically chosen wall on the ground floor, which can be viewed both from inside and from outside. The work changes depending on the location of the viewer. Close up the wealth of details becomes visible and at a distance movement and change emerge.The specific qualities of the architecture, with its large street-level windows, make it possible for passers-by to see the illuminated artwork at night.

The tapestry was woven at the Tilburg Textile Lab in the Netherlands, on adapted jacquard looms that can produce a three metres wide cloth. The thread used, Trevira CS, is flame-protected and was purposely developed by a spinnery in Como, Italy. To achieve the intended effect, twelve different colour tones were used in the weft and two in the warp.

While the public art commission for City Hall has been going on since 2021, the specific location for Bäckström’s work was chosen in 2022 and the process of developing the image could start only then. In preparation for her sketch, the artist studied the architecture of the building to capture its characteristic composition and rhythm, the existing sources of daylight, the colour scheme and other significant details. All such features will interact with the finished tapestry and combine with it to create an illusion, an image amplifying the building itself.

In other words, the starting point for the tapestry was the architectural design of the entire building. Sweeping organic forms appear and recede, twisting themselves in surprising ways.
The image composition forgoes the principle of central perspective. This means that the artwork can’t be grasped from one single vantage point. The same is true of Anshelm’s iconic building. It is only when we move around inside it that its full complexity reveals itself to us.

Perfect Storm

The title of the work, Perfect Storm, is an expression describing dramatic weather conditions that form when a number of events, which in themselves don’t have to be very remarkable, occur at the same time and reinforce each other. The expression has been used for conditions in which several unfortunate circumstances coincide to make a situation worse. It was, for instance, often heard during the financial crisis of 2007–08.

The impactful formal language of the tapestry, which changes and becomes more intense throughout its stretched-out narrative, lends a purely visual meaning to the title. To properly
experience the work we must encounter it in situ and in extenso. Art must always be allowed its place. This is equally true of the intricate architectural aesthetic of Anshelm’s building, in which complex forms come together in concert. The whole building is like a sculpture, which in itself is something valuable. The title is not only reflected in the visual and experiential aspects of the work; it also urges us to safeguard the space and place for art in public life.

Perfect Storm brings us right into a landscape that can be experienced at various
distances, starting from a broad overview and ending in intricate detail. When our gaze scans the tapestry to find its beginning, development and ending, it is as if ‘the image contained its own movement’, in the words of the artist herself. A movement that changes depending on where in the space the viewer is standing. With her ingenious work, Miriam Bäckström has enhanced the architecture and continued to build on the illusion that the house already offers.

Artwork: Perfect Storm, tapestry for Lund City Hall, 2024
Artist: Miriam Bäckström
Project management: Elin Aspeklev, Simona Dimitriu, Åsa Nacking

Text: Åsa Nacking

Translation: Anders Kreuger

Photo: Daniel Zachrisson