Modellen - En modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle, 1968

The Model - A Model for a Qualitatitve Society, 1968
Media installation, Variable dimensions

In 1968 Palle Nielsen convinced the director of the Moderna Museet, Sweden, to make an adventure playground in the museum. The director Pontus Hultén accepted, provided that Nielsen assumed full economic and organisational responsibility for the project. In October 1968, Modellen – En model förettkvalitativtsamhälle (The Model – A Model for a Qualitative Society) opened and offered free access for all of Stockholm’s children, attracting more than 33,500 visitors, 20,000 of whom were children. New walls and a Masonite Goor were installed in the large hall, along with jungle gyms, a foamrubber basin, swings, climbing ropes and water chutes. Tools, paint, building materials and fabrics were at the children’s disposal during the entire course of the project to aid their creativity.

The Royal Theatre donated a selection of period costumes to be used for dressing up, while Nielsen provided carnival masks of Charles de Gaulle, Mao Zedong, Lyndon B. Johnson and Fidel Castro. Loudspeakers were placed in each corner of the exhibition space, and the children operated turntables with a collection of LPs from every genre. In the restaurant, a number of TV screens carried live transmissions from the galleries, enabling visitors to take in the whole experience from outside. The white cube, a space designed for contemplation, was thus transformed into an open area for play and social irrationality, offering new possibilities for behaviour and proving that activity could not be prescribed.

The press release signed by the Working Group stated: ‘The playing is the exhibit. It is only an exhibition because the children play in an art museum. It is only an exhibition for those who don’t play. Maybe it will become the model of a society that children want. Maybe children can tell us so much about their world that it also becomes a model for us.’ The Model had a utopian programme: to create a new human being capable of articulating a societal project. Creativity and experiential contact were declared human priorities. The ‘qualitative human being’ was defined as a social individual with a strong need for group relations and the necessity to work collaboratively as an alternative to authoritarian society.

At the end of October 1968, The Model was presented in Västerås, a city in the vicinity of Stockholm. The work was rebuilt in a large tent near a social housing project where it was used by children during winter and spring of 1968–69. Through its transposition from institutional to urban space The Model for a Qualitative Society dissolved, like a realised avant-garde artwork. Artistic discussions did not take place at Västerås in the context of the project. The Model defied the counterculture’s dogma that institutional space per se generates conformity and conserves the status quo. The project highlighted the importance of critical discourses within the art institution and provoked questions concerning the type of social space that art can produce. So far as The Model is tied to the romanticism inherent in the concept of play as the aesthetic education of man, the question arises whether it was indeed revolutionary or (in the widest sense) disciplinary.1

1Lars Bang Larsen. ‘True Rulers of Their Own Realm. Political Subjectivation in Palle Nielsen’s The Model – A Model for a Qualitative Society’, Afterall, n. 16. London: Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, Autumn–Winter 2007.

Technical details

Original title:
Modellen - En modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle
Registration number:
Nielsen, Palle
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
Object type:
Media installation
Documentation of the exhibition Modellen – En modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle inaugurated at Moderna Museet (Stockholm, Sweden) in September 30, 1968
Variable dimensions
Meier Building, Level 1
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium. Gift of the artist
© Palle Nielsen, VEGAP, Barcelona
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Palle Nielsen "Modellen. En modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle", 1968
Palle Nielsen "Modellen. En modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle", 1968
Boy in black trousers and green shirt, jumping
Palle Nielsen "Modellen. En modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle", 1968


Son[i]a #108. Lars Bang Larsen
Son[i]a #77. Palle Nielsen