July 2019

Online art gallery The Ode To, launched in 2018 by long-time friends Anna Lukins and Helena Carlberg, is a tribute to artistry, strong women and great aesthetics.

Fashioned from their mutual love for art and all things beautiful, founders Anna and Helena's online platform provides a counterpoint to mass-produced artwork, through carefully selected pieces by creatives they admire, ranging from original collages and glass sculptures to printed textile.

Let’s start from the beginning, how did The Ode To start and where did you two meet?

We’ve been friends for around 10 years and have always had creativity as our common interest realised through studying, visiting exhibitions and flea markets together. We met in Stockholm, where Helena now lives, but have both lived abroad too; New York, Munich and now Amsterdam for Anna. Our love for art has kept our friendship going even though we haven’t lived in the same country for quite some years.

Can you name some influential figures you are both inspired by?

Creatively we’re in awe of people that manage to bring-in a dose of fun and colour (literally and/or figuratively) while also doing beautiful and ground-breaking things. Just to name a few: Cass Bird, Matisse, Peggy Guggenheim, David Hockney, David Bowie, Solange and Ricardo Bofill. Our new super heroes are otherwise successful entrepreneurs, since we now understand how much it takes to build a company.

How do you come across artists and talent? 

We're both from a fashion background, which has always had a love affair with the art scene. Anna has also worked as an agent alongside creative talent. We like to keep an ear to the ground and spot artists before they're discovered. We also find talent through our own extensive network and advisors, social media and art schools.

Do you often scout in your home town/country or have you also found artists from around the globe?

Many of our artists are Scandinavian since our networks are naturally established here. Plus there’s a great tradition of artistry and aesthetics in Sweden, so it’s a great place to source from. We do represent artists from across Europe such as Kristiina Haataja (FI/SE), Alexandria Coe (UK), B.D. Graft (DE/NL), Alina Vergnano (IT) and Lillian Tørlen (NO). We have more international names coming up this autumn.

Your selection currently consists of mixed-media art and sculpture – is there anything else you’d like to explore curating and selling?

Lots! We have a long wish list of projects we’d like to do and people we want to work with. We still have so many things we want to do in the art scene, so we’ll stick to that for the foreseeable future. We’re eager to add even more types of mediums and expressions as well as large-scale artworks. The Ode To launched in spring last year and sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we’re still new and can’t do everything at once. We’d love to curate spaces and concepts. Helena was part of the founding team behind & Other Stories and has worked as a consultant with other brands and stores. Hence, we’d love to collaborate with new restaurants, hotels and retail spaces.

Is it of equal importance for you to learn about the artist and their story when selecting pieces to sell? 

Honestly, the artwork always comes first for The Ode To and the most important aspect is that it’s visually appealing and resonates well with customers. However, the most beautiful pieces often have a story behind them, and the artist’s thought is what makes the artwork unique. For example, the ceramic sculpture ‘The Knot’ by Tove Tengå is a so-called Gordian Knot, which is untiable and represents the artist’s relationship with her son.

We love your tightly edited selection of artworks and objects – can you tell us a bit about any new discoveries you’ve come across recently?

We’re launching around ten new artists this autumn, but we’re not quite ready to announce them yet. There will be some very fine collages, paintings on wood, drawings and a ceramic piece of bacon!

Your philosophy for representing strong women artists is empowering – but your selection is not limited to just female artistry – tell us about the boys too!

The idea is to bring more balance to the art world, which we feel is unequal. Women make up the majority of those who study and make art but are a minority when it comes to getting exhibitions, payment and scholarships. That’s why we feature predominantly female artists, but it wouldn’t be fair to exclude anyone because of their gender, so we have some male artists that do great things. We had kept an eye on B.D. Graft for a long time and love his playfulness and very original homage to the great artists of our time. Designer and architect Joakim Nyströmwho has previously worked with Helena, is another example. 

What are your tips for someone looking to bring art into a space?

Just go with your gut and collect artworks and things that you fall in love with! There are so many opinions within art, so it’s easier to just trust your own instincts. Our philosophy is to collect artworks that make us happy, sometimes for unknown reasons, and slowly build a personal collection that will be with us for many years and homes to come.

Are you involved in any special commissions/projects at the moment and what’s to come in the year ahead?

We have so many great things coming our way and we seem to constantly be contacted by really interesting people, so there’s never a dull moment. We’re starting in August with a pop-up in Stockholm together with Swedish fashion brand Hope and we have some exciting conversations with other brands. The next year is all about taking The Ode To into our second year and develop our collection – a journey that is the most challenging and rewarding. We’re thrilled to work with our passion and that people find the result inspiring.

Photography by Mikael Lundblad