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Lars Vilks at the site of Nimis in Kullaberg
|Birth name||Lars Endel Roger Vilks|
20 June 1946 |
The Muhammad Drawings (2007)
Lars Endel Roger Vilks (born 20 June 1946) is a Swedish artist. He is best known for his drawings of Muhammed, prophet of Islam.
Vilks was born in Helsingborg, Sweden. His father is from Latvia and his mother is Swedish. He earned a Ph.D. in art history from Lund University in 1987, and worked at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts from 1988 to 1997. From 1997 to 2003, he was a professor in art theory at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts. As an art theorist, Vilks is a proponent of the institutional theory of art.
Although an academically trained art theorist, Vilks is a self-taught artist. In the 1970s, he started painting, and in 1984, he embarked on creating the idiosyncratic sculptures that have been his hallmark, starting with Nimis. At this time, in the early 1980s, postmodernism made its definite entry into the Swedish art scene, using inspiration from e.g. the French art philosopher Jean-François Lyotard. Conceptual artists took the place of the earlier modernists on the contemporary art scene. These conceptual artists did not want their art to have any aesthetic or programmatic content, but instead often focused on the artist's self. Vilks was part of this movement in Sweden, and among other things turned himself in as a piece of art to the spring saloon at Vikingsberg in Helsingborg, and turned his own car into a piece of art at the fall exhibition at Skånes konstförening.
Nimis and Arx
Vilks became known in 1980 as the creator of the wooden sculptures Nimis and Arx, made entirely of drift wood, which are now located in the Kullaberg nature reserve in Höganäs Municipality, Skåne. In 1996, the small area where the sculptures are located was proclaimed by Vilks as an independent country named Ladonia. Nimis was sold to Joseph Beuys as a means to circumvent the Swedish building code laws concerning unlawful building process. The sculpture of Nimis is now owned by concept artist Christo; the legal document documenting the sale is on display at the Swedish Museum of Sketches.
Critical reception and media attention
Vilks has characterized his own skill in the actual crafts involved in sculpture as quite limited, and although his artistic ideas can be seen as characteristic for his generation of Swedish conceptual artists, he has remained something of an outsider in the Swedish art scene for most of his career. He and his works have typically been treated with silence by the Swedish art establishment, as they have been deemed as not interesting enough, and seen mostly as the product of simple provocation. One of the few works of Vilks to be incorporated into a collection is the concrete sculpture Omphalos, measuring 1.6 meters high and weighing one tonne, which is owned by Moderna Museet after it was first bought by fellow artist Ernst Billgren for 10 000 Swedish kronor.
Vilks' long-standing controversies with different authorities due to his activities in the nature reserve Kullaberg, where Nimis, Arx and Landonien are all located, have on the other hand received significant attention in Swedish media over the years. Media has mostly portrayed Vilks' actions as specifically designed to provoke. This media attention has turned the area into something of a tourist attraction.
In Vilks' activity as an art theorist, he also comments on his own artistic activities as if it was conducted by another person. His different works of art, Vilks as a person, his actions, actions by those authorities with whom Vilks has been in conflict, and the media attention, is brought together in a Gesamtkunstwerk in line with the postmodern conceptual art tradition in which Vilks has been active throughout his career.
Muhammad drawings controversy
In 2007 Vilks was embroiled in an international controversy after he made a series of drawings depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a roundabout dog. The drawings were initially intended to be shown at a local art exhibition at Tällerud just outside Karlstad in Värmland, Sweden in July 2007 but were removed from the exhibition by the organisers, citing security concerns and fear of violence from Muslims, shortly before its opening. Following the first refusal, Vilks submitted the drawings to several other art galleries in Sweden, including the distinguished Gerlesborg School of Fine Art in Bohuslän where Vilks is a frequent lecturer, but all declined to show the drawings for the same reason.
The controversy gained international attention after the Örebro-based regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published one of the drawings on 18 August to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of religion. While several other leading Swedish newspapers had published the drawings at this time, this publication led to protests from Muslim organizations in Sweden as well as condemnations from several foreign governments including Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Jordan, as well as by the inter-governmental Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which also called for the Swedish government to take "punitive actions" against Vilks. Following this controversy, Vilks has been forced to live under police protection after having received several death threats, including a statement by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq which has offered up to $150,000 for his assassination.
On the same day, seven people were arrested in the Republic of Ireland over an alleged plot to assassinate Vilks. Police officers close to the investigation said those arrested were foreign-born Irish residents, mostly from Yemen and Morocco and had refugee status.  Of the seven, three men and two women were arrested in Waterford and Tramore and another man and woman at Ballincollig, near Cork. Garda Síochána (the Irish police force), which conducted the arrests with support from the National Support Services and the counter-terrorist Special Detective Unit, said the suspects range in age from mid 20's to late 40's. They (Garda Síochána) also added that throughout the investigation they had been "working closely with law enforcement agencies in the United States and in a number of European countries".
On 11 May 2010, Muslim protesters assaulted Vilks while he was giving a lecture about free speech at Uppsala University. The attacks started when a film about Islam and homosexuality that had been banned from YouTube was shown. The film in question was Iranian artist Sooreh Hera's Allah ho gaybar. Vilks' glasses were broken but he did not suffer any serious injuries, and was escorted to safety by security, while a few of the protesters were detained by police. Despite previous death threats, this was the first time violence against Vilks occurred.
A few days later, on 15 May 2010, Vilks' house in southern Sweden was attacked by arsonists. They smashed the windows and threw in bottles of gasoline. There was a small fire, but the house was not burned to the ground. Vilks was not at home at the time of the attack. Two Kosovar-Swedish brothers were arrested, and July 15 they were sentenced to two and three years, respectively, of imprisonment.
On 24 November 2010, a video produced by the Somali Islamic organization Al-Shaabab was sent out. In the video, a Swedish speaking voice appeals to "all the Somali brothers and sisters" in Sweden, to leave that country and come to Somalia to fight for Al-Shabaab. He also announces a death threat against Lars Vilks.
On 12 December 2010, a suicide bomber in Stockholm said in a message to media and the Swedish Security Police that "Now will your children, daughters and sisters die the same way our brothers and sisters die. Our actions will speak for themselves. As long as you don't end your war against Islam and degradation against the prophet and your foolish support for the pig Vilks."
On 10 September 2011, three men were arrested on suspicion of preparing to commit terrorist crimes in Gothenburg, Sweden. Two days after the arrest, the crime classification was changed to conspiring to murder. It was revealed a few days later that Vilks was the intended target of the three men.
- (1987) Konst och konster (in Swedish; dissertation), Malmö: Wedgepress & Cheese, ISBN 91-85752-57-6.
- (1993) Att läsa Arx (in Swedish), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-88248-43-7.
- (1993) Arx : en bok om det outsägliga (in Swedish), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-88248-47-X.
- (1994) Nimis och Arx (in Swedish), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-88248-50-X.
- (1995) Konstteori : kameler går på vatten (in Swedish), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-88248-94-1.
- (1999) Det konstnärliga uppdraget? : en historia om konsthistoria, kontextkonst och det metafysiska överskottet (in Swedish), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-578-0331-5.
- (2002) T.O.A. : [teori om allting] (in Swedish), Malmö: Galleri 21, ISBN 91-631-2330-4.
- (2003) Myndigheterna som konstnärligt material : den långa historien om Nimis, Arx, Omfalos och Ladonien (in Swedish), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-578-0429-X (hardback).
- (2004) Spartips : 34 tips för konstnärer, kommuner, vissa obemedlade samt underbetalda (in Swedish), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-578-0451-6.
- (2005) Hur man blir samtidskonstnär på tre dagar : handbok med teori (in Swedish; co-author: Martin Schibli), Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 91-578-0459-1.
- (2011) ART: den institutionella konstteorin, konstnärlig kvalitet, den internationella samtidskonsten. Nora: Nya Doxa, ISBN 978-91-578-0590-4
- Rubin, Birgitta (2010-03-21). "Lars Vilks: Jag siktar på hela religionsfältet" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- Lars Vilks - State of NovelArt.org. http://novelart.org/vilks.html
- Vikten av att vara Vilks ("The importance of being Vilks"), Svenska Dagbladet 2010-06-27 (Swedish)
- "Police: Swedish cartoonist object of attempted attack".
- Brink, Bosse (2007-07-21). "Teckningar på Muhammed togs bort" (in Swedish). Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
- Ströman, Lars (2007-08-18). "Rätten att förlöjliga en religion" (in Swedish). Nerikes Allehanda. Archived from the original on 2007-09-06. Retrieved 2007-08-31. English translation
- "Iran protests over Swedish Muhammad cartoon". Agence France-Presse. 2007-08-27. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
- "Pakistan condemns the publication of offensive sketch in Sweden" (Press release). Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
- Salahuddin, Sayed (2007-09-01). "Indignant Afghanistan slams Prophet Mohammad sketch". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-09-09.
- Fouché, Gwladys (2007-09-03). "Egypt wades into Swedish cartoons row". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-09.
- "Jordan condemns new Swedish Mohammed cartoon". Agence France-Presse. 2007-09-03. Retrieved 2007-09-09.[dead link]
- "The Secretary General strongly condemned the publishing of blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad by Swedish artist" (Press release). Organisation of the Islamic Conference. 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2007-09-09.
- Scherlund, Erik (2007-08-31). "Lars Vilks hotad till livet" (in Swedish). TV4Nyheterna. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- "Vilks to get police protection". Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå/The Local. 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2007-09-16.
- "Bounty set over Prophet cartoon". BBC News. 2007-09-15. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
- Emily Friedman and Jason Ryan (May 9, 2010). "American Colleen LaRose Called Herself Jihad Jane". ABC News.
- Pogatchnik, Shawn (2010-03-09). "Irish arrest 7 over threat to kill Swedish artist". The Buffalo News/Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-03-09.[dead link]
- "Arrests over alleged plot to kill cartoonist". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- Stack, Sarah (2010-03-09). "Seven held in Ireland over plot to assassinate cartoonist Lars Vilks". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- "Searches in Waterford and Cork on the 9/3/10." (Press release). Garda Síochána. 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- Risling, Matt. "Muhammad cartoonist assaulted during lecture". Associated Press.
- "House of Swedish 'Muhammad' cartoonist attacked". Deutsche Welle. 2010-05-15.
- "Brothers jailed for Vilks arson attack". The Local. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- by ARTINFO France, Kate Deimling (2011-09-21). "Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Was True Target of Foiled Terrorist Attack at Swedish Art Biennial". Artinfo. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- "Lars Vilks believed to have been the target - Göteborg Daily". Goteborgdaily.se. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- Lars Vilks' blog
- Second blog
- Profile at Svenska konstnärer
- YouTube video of the May 11, 2010 incident
- Lars Vilks Mohammad drawing
- Sooreh Hera - Allah Ho Gaybar!