Nils Bech and Ida Ekblad

Alex Gartenfeld
Grant Delin

In the case of Norwegian artists Nils Bech and Ida Ekblad, collaboration is more of a friendship between two people whose fitful lives never stop being art. Take their exhibition in Switzerland last June, at an off-site gallery during Art Basel: Ekblad, 29, soaped the storefront with colorful, expressionistic swipes of paint, effectively boarding up the windows; at the opening, Bech, a 28-year-old camp performance artist with teen idol looks, sang a rendition of the operatic pop song “Curious Love” over a mix of choral chants and synthesizers. For Ekblad, this piece was a bridge between her earlier political works (her stamps of the McDonald’s logo were on view at the New Museum’s Younger Than Jesus show in New York last spring) and her more recent sculptural and painterly abstractions. For Bech, who sang while standing on a ladder, the recital was characteristic of his ongoing interest in using performance to merge art and space. Bech and Ekblad first met in 2000. “It was a midsummer night in a humble cottage in a tiny secluded village outside of Oslo,” explains Ekblad. “We were smoking salmon when Nils started to sing—sooty tears flowed down my face.” Says Bech, “I was struck down flat by her Lauren Hutton beauty.” Since then, he has performed at every single one of Ekblad’s art openings. In 2005, Ekblad and artist Anders Nordby founded Willy Wonka Inc., a traveling exhibition space whose first incarnation inhabited an abandoned chocolate factory in Oslo. “Nils was the chief captain performer,” says Ekblad. His appearances became an immediate attraction. In September, Brooklyn’s The Journal Gallery hosted Ekblad’s U.S. solo debut, and Bech sang at the opening dinner. But Bech isn’t just sideshow material: This coming February, he will release an as-yet-untitled album on the Norwegian label FysiskFormat. It’ll be a pop record with classical references, he says—fitting for a trained opera singer who “fell off the wagon at the age of 21.”

Check out more of their work at Nils Bech's MySpace page and Ida Ekblad's Web site.

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November 2014

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