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Press Release

Papier Unites Bea Szenfeld’s Sculptural Paper Couture with Stina Wirsén’s Evocative Illustrations

Press Contact: Karen R. Nelson, Karen.N@ASImn.org
February 6, 2021 By Lizzy Rode

MINNEAPOLIS – Papier, in a juncture between art and fashion, is an international touring exhibition showcasing artist-designer Bea Szenfeld’s striking paper couture — dresses and other sculptural fashion items made entirely from paper and worn by such pop icons as Lady Gaga and Björk  — united with artist-author Stina Wirsén’s evocative and colorful illustrations. Papier makes its Midwest debut, at one of only two sites in the U.S.,  February 6 – July 11, 2021, at the American Swedish Institute (ASI) in the Turnblad Mansion and Osher Gallery.  In this remarkable, creative partnership, two prestigious Swedish talents meet in a mutual affection for the handmade and paper.

Papier features a dozen of Szenfeld’s wearable pieces.  Her bold designs belie their delicateness.  Wirsén’s expressive drawings and illustrations set the scene and act as a colorful backdrop. Both artists have had a major impact in pop culture from fashion to theatre.

Szenfeld continuously pushes the convention of paper and fashion, painstakingly cutting, folding, sewing and stapling thousands of pieces of paper into intricate, three-dimensional garments and objects.  Wirsén puts ink to paper, capturing life, movement and beauty. Between the two, many hours are spent using their hands to make, think and experiment – an analogue process they share and love.

Szenfeld was inspired by such sources as origami and Arte Povera – a 1960s-70s Italian art movement that explored common materials and unconventional methods.  She started in ceramics and has worked in a variety of unusual mediums, including pasta and lettuce, but has always been drawn to paper.  With billowing tops of petalled flowers, cubes and scale-like discs, her paper coutour has been worn by such superstars as Lady Gaga and Björk. It’s been said that her “awe-inspiring and technically advanced garments are nearly impossible to wear but beautiful enough to make people try.”

 Wirsén, one Sweden’s best-known illustrators,  worked in-house for the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter from 1990–2010, where she covered Szenfeld’s first fashion show. “I found her work very interesting from the start,” Wirsén reflected.  And Szenfeld hers. They have supported each other creatively in the 20 years since.  Wirsén’s work spans fashion, commercial advertising, illustrations for the daily press, magazines and public art. She is also internationally acclaimed for writing children’s books that have been adapted into movies and theatre works.

 Papier was originally exhibited at Lidköping ArtHall in Sweden. The Midwest début at ASI, made possible in collaboration with the House of Sweden, Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C., is one of only two stops for the exhibition in the U.S.  before it returns to Sweden. The Embassy first hosted Papier March – December 2020.

ARTIST BIOS  – Bea Szenfeld and Stina Wirsén

Bea Szenfeld, born 1972 in Poland, lives and works in Stockholm. Using paper, scissors, tape, staples, needle and thread, Szenfeld creates pieces that are both bold and delicate. Her paper couture garments have been worn by such superstars as Lady Gaga and Björk and can be found in art galleries and fashion magazines as well as on Nobel Prize guests, artists and politicians. Some pieces are origami folds, others consist of thousands of individual pieces. The craftsmanship, together with her daring design language, creates works that point backwards and forward in time. Szenfeld is also the designer behind IKEA’s 2018 Winter Collection.

Stina Wirsén, born 1968 in Sweden, lives and works in Stockholm. She is one Sweden’s best-known illustrators and her visual world is simple in its elegance while expressive. Wirsén’s work spans fields including fashion, commercial advertising, illustrations for the daily press, magazines and public art. She is acclaimed for writing international children’s books which have also been turned into movies and videos and theatre works. Wirsén was the in-house illustrator for Dagens Nyheter from 1990–2010. She is also a playwright and a set/costume designer for the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. In addition, she has been granted awards including Expressen’s Heffaklump Award for children’s literature, the Elsa Beskow Plaque, Nordiska Tecknare’s Award and Svenska Tecknare’s Kolla! Award.


Ongoing – Virtual Tours

Interactive, Online Public and Private Group Tours

Gather with friends, family or colleagues during online public or private tours conducted live, to learn more about the Turnblad Family or other aspects of ASI. Tours allow interactive questions and are offered at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. CT on the second Wednesday of the month. Register online at ASImn.org or call ASI at 612-871-4907 for additional information. $15 per connection for public tours. Private groups from 4 to 20, $200 flat fee.

 PRESS IMAGES also available online through  https://asimn.org/about-us/press-room/press-gallery/papier-bea-szenfeld-and-stina-wirsen


The ASI Museum, Museum Store and FIKA Café are open for in-person visits.  Revised hours are Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Advance reservations (pick a day and come within open hours) are required to visit the museum and can be at www.ASImn.org or by calling 612-871-4907 during public hours.  Visitors must use face coverings and maintain safe distances. The Store and FIKA will accept walk-in customers.  FIKA will also offer expanded Marketplace take-out orders. ASI has free on-site parking and is located at 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407.


Museum Admission: $12 adults, $8 seniors ages 62 +, $6 ages 6–18 and full-time students with ID. Free for ASI members and children ages 5 and under.  Advance, timed reservations and face coverings are required.


Hours:  Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The ASI, FIKA and the Store are closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The full FIKA lunch menu and counter service are available from 11 a.m. –  3 p.m.  FIKA will also offer an expanded Marketplace take-out menu for pre-sale, pick-up. For details and to order: asimn.org/visit/fika-cafe

AMERICAN SWEDISH INSTITUTE is a museum and cultural center that is a gathering place for all people to share experiences around themes of culture, migration, the environment and the arts, informed by enduring ties to Sweden.  It encompasses the historic Turnblad Mansion and the contemporary Nelson Cultural Center as well as the ASI Museum Store and the critically acclaimed FIKA Café. Founded by Swedish immigrant and newspaper publisher Swan J. Turnblad in 1929, ASI has grown to engage many audiences through innovative art exhibitions, public events, community and school programs including Story Swap with Wellstone International High School, language classes and Nordic craft and food-related workshops. The Wall Street Journal called ASI “[a] model of how a small institution can draw visitors through exciting programming.”

ASI is located at 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota  55407. For more, visit www.ASImn.org or call 612-871-4907 during public hours. 


Major support provided by the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Karin Larson, and ASI’s members and donors.  The exhibition partner is the Embassy of Sweden. The exhibition media partner is the Star Tribune.

Special thanks: Minnesota artist activities are made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota.

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