Recently the art "du gamla du fria" ("thou ancient, thou free" which is the name for Swedish national anthem), is an art installation that consists of a crooked flagpole waving the Swedish flag upside down. The work has provoked many reactions, most recently due to the new position of the installation. It's been placed in front of Kulturhuset in the absolute centrum of Stockholm city. Some have argued that showing the Swedish flag being defiled where tourists often pass isn't a good look for the capital of Sweden in the current media climate where US president Trump put Sweden on the map in a negative light, and where Sweden did a complete U-turn on previous immigration politics which has caused political turmoil. Even politicians have commented on the piece, such as Christian Democrat politician Erik Slottner, who claimed that the work was "unnecessarily provocative." Today a new twist to the story appeared. It looks like the artwork has been plagiarized from a previous installation in Iceland, created by Eva Isleífsdottir. Her "Flagpole" from 2008 was in that context a comment on the Icelandic banking crisis. Even artist Lars Vilks noticed the similarity and notes in a blog post that it's customary to name previous work that is similar. The creator of the Swedish crooked flagpole may or may not have seen the Icelandic flagpole, but art critics Birgitta Rubin calls it "uncomfortably similar" and critic Dennis Dahlqvist from the culture news assumes that the artist has seen the Icelandic version.
"I have no idea if Mattias Norström knew this, but I assume he has seen it and that he has taken it from there. There is nothing I can prove, but in his work as an artist, it includes knowing what other artists have done. So it does not matter - he's got rid of anyway.
The artist himself, Mattias Norström, told the culture news that he has never seen Eve Isleídottir's flagpole ever before. He says that he got the idea for the flagpole when he was a young punk.
"If I'm to be honest, I saw it for the first time yesterday. It's only to congratulate that she finally gets a little attention for her flagpole, who has not received any attention before. It's just lifting your hat. I was born and raised in Dalarna where the flagpole stands as the dot in the one in the perfect garden. In my youth I felt that "dammit, there must be something more outside this square", so I bent the flagpole and jumped over the farmhouse one can say. Just like in a punk piece by Ebba Grön"
Head of the culture house debate department who is responsible for placing the flag in the center of Stockholm now, Johan Wirfält, also believes that the work is not a copy. He tells SVT that neither he, nor Mattias has seen the Icelandic art before.
"I have not spent several weeks searching online for pictures of similar works. Mattias work is unique."
When pressed by the Culture news, who points out that the installations are almost identical, he retorts:
"Mattias Norström sees this as his self-portrait, it's a Swedish flag and I see it as unique. Of course, you can believe what you want. "
Eva Isleífsdottir who created the Icelandic flagpole doesn't feel ripped off. She told the culture news that her work didn't attract much attention back in 2008, "it was actually destroyed after the inauguration and I had to rebuild it again." She saw her flagpole as the epic national symbol and notes that the work got more recognition later. "But over the years I have been told that it depicted a special time in Icelandic history - a time it is worth remembering."
"I do not see it as if he stole something and I'm not angry. It's very good that his work gives rise to debate - that's how it should be. Art should reflect reality."
According to Isleífsdottir, Flagpole symbolized the situation Iceland was in during the 2008 financial crisis.