Lars Vilks

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Lars Vilks
Lars Vilks 20050722.jpg
Lars Vilks at the site of Nimis in Kullaberg
Lars Endel Roger Vilks Lanat

(1946-06-20) 20 June 1946 (age 75)
Helsingborg, Sweden
Known forConceptual art
Notable work
Nimis (1980)
Arx (1991)
Muhammad drawings (2007)

Lars Endel Roger Vilks Lanat (born 20 June 1946) is a Swedish artist and activist whose drawings of Muhammad resulted in at least two failed attempts by Islamic extremists to murder him. He also created the sculptures, Nimis and Arx, made of driftwood and rock, respectively. The area where the sculptures are located was proclaimed by Vilks as an independent country, "Ladonia".[1]

Early life and academic career[edit]

Vilks was born in Helsingborg, Sweden, to a Latvian father and a Swedish mother.[2] He earned his doctoral degree 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.[citation needed]

Artistic career[edit]

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 often focused on the artist's self. Vilks was part of this movement in Sweden. He turned himself in as a piece of art to the spring saloon at Vikingsberg, Helsingborg, and turned his own car into a piece of art at the fall exhibition at Skånes konstförening.[3]

Nimis and Arx[edit]

Nimis. Wood sculptures by Vilks at Kullaberg.

In 1980 Vilks created two sculptures, Nimis and Arx, the former made entirely of drift wood and the latter of concrete and rock, in the Kullaberg nature reserve in Höganäs, Skåne. In 1996, the small area where the sculptures are located was proclaimed by Vilks as an independent country, "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.[4][citation needed]

Critical reception and media attention[edit]

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. One of the few works of Vilks to be incorporated into a collection is the concrete sculpture Omfalos, 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.[3]

Vilks' long-standing controversies with different authorities due to his activities in the nature reserve Kullaberg, where Nimis, Arx and Landonien are all located, receive significant attention in Swedish media, which has mostly portrayed Vilks' work as specifically designed to be provocative. This attention has turned the area into something of a tourist attraction.[1][5] In Vilks' activity as an art theorist, he comments on his own artistic activities in the second or third person. His different works of art, his actions, actions by those authorities with whom Vilks has been in conflict, and the media attention, are brought together in a Gesamtkunstwerk.[3] He has described himself as an "equal opportunity offender" in his critical depictions of religion.

Muhammad drawings[edit]

In 2007, Vilks caused an international controversy when he depicted Muhammad as a roundabout dog in three drawings, designated to be shown at an art exhibition at Tällerud, in July of the same year. Shortly before its opening, the organizers cancelled their invitation with reference to serious security concerns, and despite Vilks' effort no other Swedish art gallery offered to exhibit his drawings.[6]

Eventually, on 18 August, one of his drawings was published in the Örebro-based regional newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda, as part of an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of religion.[7] and even though other leading Swedish newspapers[which?] had published the drawings before, it was this publication that led to protests from Muslim organizations in Sweden as well as condemnations from several foreign governments including Iran,[8] Pakistan,[9] Afghanistan,[10] Egypt,[11] and Jordan[citation needed] 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.[12][13][14]

Assassination plot[edit]

In 2009, a failed plot to kill Vilks was hatched. Three U.S. citizens, Colleen LaRose (known as "Jihad Jane"), Mohammad Hassas Khalid, and Jamie Paulin Ramirez, participated in the plot. On 9 March 2010, LaRose's federal indictment was unsealed charging her with trying to recruit Muslims to murder Vilks.[15][16]

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.[17][18] Of the seven, three men and two women were arrested in Waterford and Tramore, and another man and woman at Ballincollig, near Cork.[17] 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 ranged in age from mid 20s to late 40s.[19] The Irish police 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".[19]

Violent attacks[edit]

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 (the video depicts images of topless men, including one brief image of two fully clothed men kissing, all interspersed with Islamic imagery) was shown and some muslims began to demand that the film be stopped, claiming it to be gay porn. The film in question was Iranian artist Sooreh Hera's Allah ho Gaybar. Vilks' eyeglasses 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 act of violence against Vilks.[citation needed]

A few days later, on 15 May 2010, Vilks' house in southern Sweden was attacked by arsonists.[20] They smashed the windows and threw in bottles of gasoline.[20] 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.[20] Two Kosovar-Swedish brothers were arrested, and 15 July they were sentenced to two and three years, respectively, of imprisonment.[21]

On 24 November 2010, a video produced by the Somali Islamic terrorist 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 announces a death threat against Vilks. On 11 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."[22][23][24]

Al-Qaeda hit list[edit]

In 2010[25] Anwar al-Awlaki published an Al-Qaeda hit list in Inspire magazine, including Lars Vilks.[26][27][28] In 2013 the list was later expanded to include Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier, who the Lars Vilks committee gave their freedom prize in 2014.[29] When Charb was murdered in a terror attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, along with 11 other people, Al-Qaeda called for more cartoonists to be killed,[30][31] and Vilks stepped up his security.[32]

14 February 2015 attack[edit]

At an event called Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression, which was organized by Vilks at the Krudttønden café[33][34] in Copenhagen, Denmark on 14 February 2015, semi automatic gunfire left film director Finn Nørgaard dead and three police officers wounded.[35] At least 30 bullet holes were visible in the window of the café. Participants at the event included speaker Niels Ivar Larsen and organizer Helle Merete Brix, the latter describing the attack as targeted at Vilks.[35] The suspect, acting alone, fled the scene and attacked a synagogue, killing a man. He was then identified by surveillance cameras and killed in gunfire with police the following day. Police believe the attack in Copenhagen may have been inspired by the Charlie Hebdo shooting.[36][37][38]

After the attack, Vilks went into hiding.[39]

Free speech award[edit]

In March 2015, Vilks received the Sappho Award from the Danish Free Press Society. The award ceremony took place under tight security in the Parliament wing of Christiansborg Palace. It was Vilks's first public appearance since the 2015 February attack.[40][41]


  • (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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bicudo de Castro, Vicente; Kober, Ralph (15 April 2019). "The Royal Republic of Ladonia: A Micronation built of Driftwood, Concrete and Bytes" (PDF). Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures. doi:10.21463/shima.13.1.10.
  2. ^ Lars Vilks profile, Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Vikten av att vara Vilks "The importance of being Vilks", Svenska Dagbladet, 27 June 2010 (in Swedish)
  4. ^ Rosendahl, Lisa "Lars Vilks and the Use of the Legal Process as Artistic Material" in The Trials of Art, ed. Daniel McClean (London: Ridinghouse, 2007), pp. 357 footnote 6.
  5. ^ Hallerton, Sheila; Hill, Matt (15 April 2019). "Soundtracking a Micronation: Neurobash's engagement with Ladonia" (PDF). Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures. doi:10.21463/shima.13.1.11.
  6. ^ Brink, Bosse (21 July 2007). "Teckningar på Muhammed togs bort". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  7. ^ Ströman, Lars (18 August 2007). "Rätten att förlöjliga en religion" [The right to ridicule a religion] (in Swedish). Nerikes Allehanda. Archived from the original on 6 September 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
    Translation: Ströman, Lars (18 August 2007). "The right to ridicule a religion". Nerikes Allehanda. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Iran protests over Swedish Muhammad cartoon". Agence France-Presse. 27 August 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  9. ^ "Pakistan condemns the publication of offensive sketch in Sweden" (Press release). Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 30 August 2007. Archived from the original on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  10. ^ Salahuddin, Sayed (1 January 2007). "Indignant Afghanistan slams Prophet Mohammad sketch". Reuters. Retrieved 9 September 2007.
  11. ^ Fouché, Gwladys (3 September 2007). "Egypt wades into Swedish cartoons row". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2007.
  12. ^ Scherlund, Erik (31 August 2007). "Lars Vilks hotad till livet" (in Swedish). TV4Nyheterna. Archived from the original on 2 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  13. ^ "Vilks to get police protection". Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå/The Local. 16 September 2007. Retrieved 16 September 2007.
  14. ^ "Bounty set over Prophet cartoon". BBC News. 15 September 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2007.
  15. ^ Emily Friedman; Jason Ryan (9 May 2010). "American Colleen LaRose Called Herself Jihad Jane". ABC News. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Jihad Jane arrested". NBC News. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  17. ^ a b "Arrests over alleged plot to kill cartoonist". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 9 March 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  18. ^ Stack, Sarah (9 March 2010). "Seven held in Ireland over plot to assassinate cartoonist Lars Vilks". The Independent. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  19. ^ a b "Searches in Waterford and Cork on 9 March 2010" (Press release). Garda Síochána. 9 March 2010. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  20. ^ a b c "House of Swedish 'Muhammad' cartoonist attacked". Deutsche Welle. 15 May 2010.
  21. ^ "Brothers jailed for Vilks arson attack". The Local. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  22. ^ Page, Jonathan (12 December 2010). "Sweden suicide bomber was British university graduate". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  23. ^ "Four terror suspects arrested in Sweden, Gothenburg arts centre evacuated". The Journal (Ireland). 11 September 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  24. ^ Hanson, Matilda E.; Håkansson, Catarina (11 December 2010). "Man sprängde sig själv i Stockholm". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish).
  25. ^ Scott Stewart (22 July 2010). "Fanning the Flames of Jihad". Security Weekly. Stratfor. Archived from the original on 6 July 2013. Inspire also features a "hit list" that includes the names of people like Westergaard who were involved in the cartoon controversy as well as other targets such as Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who produced the controversial film Fitna in 2008
  26. ^ Dashiell Bennet (1 March 2013). "Look Who's on Al Qaeda's Most-Wanted List". The Wire.
  27. ^ Conal Urquhart. "Paris Police Say 12 Dead After Shooting at Charlie Hebdo". Time.
  28. ^ Victoria Ward. "Murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonist was on al Qaeda wanted list". The Telegraph.
  29. ^ Lulu Chang (16 February 2015). "Who Is Lars Vilks? The Intended Target in the Copenhagen Shootings Has Faced Death Threats Before".
  30. ^ Lucy Cormack (8 January 2015). "Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier crossed off chilling al-Qaeda hitlist". The Age.
  31. ^ "Shooting in Denmark leaves 2 dead, 5 police injured". Sunshine Coast Daily. 15 February 2015. Listed among al-Qaeda's "most wanted" in the West... his work has made him the subject of repeated death threats from Islamic extremists. The French cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier, killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, was on the same hit list
  32. ^ Lin Jenkins (15 February 2015). "Lars Vilks: maverick artist who knows what it is to be a target".
  33. ^ "Krudttønden". (Krudttoenden café: website in Danish) "Art, blasphemy, and freedom of speech". Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015. (event announcement in Danish)
  34. ^ "Kom til debatmøde 14. februar". Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015. (Announcement at; in Swedish)
  35. ^ a b "Shootout at Copenhagen café free speech event". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 14 February 2015. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015.
  36. ^ Sabina Zawadzki (15 February 2015). "Denmark sees possible 'Charlie Hebdo' motive behind Copenhagen attacks". Reuters. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  37. ^ "Copenhagen shootings: Gunman may have been inspired by Paris attacks, Danish police say". ABC News. 16 February 2015.
  38. ^ "Shots Fired at Copenhagen Cafe Free Speech Event Hosted by Lars Vilks". NBC News. 14 February 2015.
  39. ^ KASHMIRA GANDER (16 February 2015). "Copenhagen shootings: Cartoonist Lars Vilks goes into hiding". The Independent.
  40. ^ Copenhagen attack cartoonist Lars Vilks wins award
  41. ^ Struck, Rikke (14 March 2015). "En måned efter terrorangrebet: Nu hædres Lars Vilks i København |". Retrieved 15 March 2015.

External links[edit]