Karlsson, not Wilker

As the winner of this year’s Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize, designer Hjalti Karlsson has created an exhibition of his work to run in Gothenburg’s Röhsska Museum. Just one problem – the prize was for him and not his business partner Jan Wilker. Awkward

As the winner of this year’s Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize, designer Hjalti Karlsson has created an exhibition of his work to run in Gothenburg’s Röhsska Museum. Just one problem – the prize was for him and not his business partner Jan Wilker. Awkward

Each year, the Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize is awarded to someone from the Nordic countries who has made an outstanding contribution to design, crafts and fashion. This year’s recipient is Hjalti Karlsson of karlssonwilker in New York.

In addition to getting a cheque for 1,000,000 SEK (around £95,000) the recipient is invited to create an exhibition of their work at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg. For Karlsson this presented a problem as almost all his work as a professional designer has been created in collaboration with his studio partner Wilker.

“Yes, it was unusual that my name only is associated with the show, and not mine and Jan’s. It has never happened before since we started karlssonwiker in 2000,” Karlsson says. “But, the award is a Scandinavian award, and Jan being not Scandinavian, he was left out. Since there is never any ego between the two of us, I think Jan was completely fine about all this.”

The cover of the catalogue to Karlsson’s show – This is How I Do It – makes explicit and cheeky reference to the conundrum.






“In early discussions with Tom Hedqvist the director of the museum, we talked about that I would do something site specific for the exhibition, and not only show our past work,” Karlsson says of the show. “I felt however that I needed to show some work, since most people in Gothenburg who would attend the show do not know me nor what I do.”

“So I made a large timeline on the main wall, on the left when one enters the show [shown above]. It starts with some photos of very young me and my brother and our dog, a painting done by my mom who influenced me to draw when I was young, and then it goes into talking about me moving to New York and going to school there, and then a large portion of the timeline is dedicated to work, showing a variety of projects (print and motion), so people get a good idea of what we do,” Karlsson says.

“The timeline ends with the documentary they made to coincide with the award, directed by Carl Johan Engberg [shown below]. He visited the studio and followed me around for few days in New York and also in Iceland.”



“We created seven large posters for the show, all of them being in one way or the other ‘Swedish’ themed,” Karlsson says. “On the back of each poster we drew a portrait of some famous and some not so famous characters and people from Sweden.”


The portraits include King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Pippi Longstocking, Dolph Lundgren and the two female singers from the Swedish band Ace of Base.






While Sweden is variously represented by, er, the Muppets’ Swedish Chef



and a reference to Swedes’ supposed love of Blueberries (apparently 2013 was a lousy year for blueberries but 2014 promises to be better)





Although excluded (nominally at least) from the show, Wilker can at least look forward to benefitting – Karlsson has promised to share the cash prize with him.

More on the Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize here

Hjalti Karlsson: This is How I Do It is on until February 2. Details here


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