We use cookies to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and for our marketing efforts. By accepting, you consent to our Privacy Policy You may change your settings at any time by clicking "Cookie Consent" at the bottom of every page.


These technologies are required to activate the essential functions of our range of services.


These cookies collect information about the use of the website so that its content and functionality can be improved in order to increase the attractiveness of the website. These cookies may be set by third party providers whose services our website uses. These cookies are only set and used with your express prior consent.


These cookies are set by our advertising partners on our website and can be used to create a profile of your interests and show you relevant advertising on other websites (across websites).

Kenneth Gustavsson

The Magic Bar

Hero Image for Kenneth Gustavsson

Kenneth Gustavsson (1946–2009) was a leading photographer in Sweden at the end of the 1960s. During the 1980s, he represented Swedish and Nordic photography during several exhibitions in various countries. Gustavsson’s photographs are characterized by a strong personal expression. With tireless consistency, he sought his inner visions in urban environments such as New York, Berlin and Paris. His exceptional talent for creating everyday magic makes him timeless and always topical.

The 1980s were Kenneth Gustavsson’s most creative period

After graduating from Christer Strömholm’s Fotoskolan in 1967, Gustavsson co-founded the Saftra photo agency with Anders Petersen. They both made several well-received reportages at the end of the 1960s, including one from the Stockholm slums that was displayed in the exhibition Staden i retur at the Stockholm City Museum in 1969. For most of the 1970s Kenneth Gustavsson took a break from photography. In 1983, ETC magazine devoted 16 pages to a presentation of Gustavsson’s work for a new generation of photography enthusiasts, which constituted the beginning of a new creative flow for the photographer. In the coming years he participated in several of the magazine’s thematic issues. In 1984 he received the photographic magazine FOTO’s major award. The same year he exhibited at Galleri Gauss in Stockholm.

The 1980s were Kenneth Gustavsson’s most creative period. His visit to Belfast in 1983 and his collaboration with the young enthusiasts at ETC magazine and Galleri Gauss gave new vitality to his work. His photographs from Belfast are an extraordinary visual interpretation of conditions in a city wracked by terror and violence. The series makes no claims other than being a deeply personal account and leaves beholders to use their imagination and make their own associations. The Magic Bar is one of Kenneth Gustavsson’s most famous photographs. The door of the pub in Belfast has been open for nearly thirty years, and its allure has not faded over time. He never went inside the bar himself; he was an observer on the outside, noting the peculiarities of life.

During the 1980s Gustavsson was one of the Swedish photographers invited to participate in the exhibitions Just Images at PS1 in New York, 1985; Contemporary Black and White West European Photography, 1987; Fotofest in Houston 1988 and 150th Anniversary of Photography in Prague, 1989.

In 1996, together with Christer Strömholm and Anders Petersen, he participated in the acclaimed exhibition Indications at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. Recently, his images have been exhibited in Moderna Museet’s display from the collections, Reality Revisited, 2009 and See the World, 2011.

The exhibition The Magic Bar presents a generous selection of Kenneth Gustavsson’s original prints – from the typically starkly contrasted 1960s images to the softly focused and subtle later works. The work in the darkroom was very important for Kenneth Gustavsson and the muted prints from the 1990s have become his signature.

– Thomas Wågström, Curator