Stockholm is the home of four graffiti pieces that have been considered for national heritage listing. Highway by Still Heavens Only Force (SHOF), Red Dragon by Disey and Ziggy, Fascinate by Circle and Tarik[a] - and this one, Midsummer Madness by Akay[b] and Spade. I've run into the name Akay previously, when I went to take a look beneath St. Eriksbron in 2009, so I wasn't all that surprised to find out that he had left his mark among the top four graffiti pieces of Stockholm.
Unfortunately the pieces were not listed[c], for unknown reasons. They slowly fade away, and while Highway is in quite good shape, Midsummer Madness has endured not only the elements, but also the constuction of Norra Länken[d], whose Roslagstull segment passes through the ground below.
Midsummer Madness is situated just behind the AlbaNova University Center[e] in what used to be the Albano industrial zone. The painting is on the west wall of one of the last remaining industrial buildings in the area. It was built 1889-90 as a paint factory for Ferniss-Aktiebolaget, then used for dairy processing from 1930 until 1968, when Albano Smide moved in. Albano Smide went bankrupt in 2000. Kulturkampanjen, a network for independent culture, started renovating the building in 2003. Vandalism slowed the project and a fire finally ended it. Kulturkampanjen went on to build the Cyklopen Art Center[h] in Högdalen.
The painting consists of a circus scene, surrounded by a border with the four card suits in each corner and the motto Eternal Extravaganza along the bottom. From left to right is a bottle of Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo[i], marked 1994, which is the year the piece was made. This makes it five years younger than Highway, but still a respectable 19 years as of this writing. Above the bottle is an unknown coat of arms, and to the right is a woman with a snake that pulls back the curtain, presenting the rest of the circus. Next to her is a small bull (toro) with a shell (concha) in front of it, and just in case we missed the brand, the name Concha y Toro is written big along the top border.
The middle third of the painting is seen through a blue haze. We can see a juggler, a harlequin, and a character in a beret that looks like he is pulling back a veil, exposing something.
The rightmost third of the painting shows a monkey with fireworks, a clown and a baseball pitcher supporting a character with a flag. Behind them are red silhouettes of dancers and a woman with a whip. Finally, a jester pops his head up from the bottom right of the border, by the suit of diamonds.
The photo was shot in four sections. The first section covered the whole piece and was stitched into a 400 megapixel panorama. As it was shot from a position in front of the "s" in "summer", the distortion towards the right end was considerable. The three other sections were shot from a position in front of the red-headed clown, stitched separately and used to replace the right third of the panorama. Finally, a separate set of five photos were used to correct the sky, as the parts above the wall of the sections would not line up properly.
Jacob Kimvall has written about this piece in Stockholms Fria, Praktverk i stadens gränstrakter[j]. Among other tidbits, we learn that Midsummer Madness was never published in the graffiti magazine Underground Productions, where Jacob was a contributor. When Jacob met Akay the latter had asked why, since it was certainly one of the most ambitious pieces to be created that year.
The text refers more to typography that graffiti styles, the whole is more circus than hiphop, and we probably thought the painting wasn't enough graffiti. [*] This is quite an interesting statement, because it shows how even movements that are supposedly about "independence" can end up with imposed conformity.
Graffiti isn't just street art, but a certain textual style - wildstyle - and a certain culture - hiphop. This saddens me, because some of the greatest works of independent art that I know of have come from artists who haven't been afraid to step outside the bounds imposed by "purity".
Roughly, "The Varnish Company"
Which was destroyed by arson in 2008 but rebuilt.