Installation that Put Roma Beggars on Display at Malmö Museum Slammed as “Freak Show”

European Parliament member Soraya Post deemed the display "disgusting."

soraya Post, member of the European Parliament Photo via
soraya Post, member of the European Parliament Photo via

Pose as “works of art!” Such was the job description given to two beggars of Roma origin who were used as live props in an installation at Konsthall in Malmö, Sweden.

Belonging to Europe’s most oppressed minority, the beggars, who are a couple in real life, weren’t allowed to talk to visitors. They put in two hours a day at the museum, and they reportedly quadrupled their daily earnings while participating in the exhibition, which opened in January.

Soraya Post, a member of the Swedish government-led Commission Against Antiziganism and of the European Parliament—the first representative elected on a feminist ticket—has slammed the decision to “use human beings as objects for their own interest” as “disgusting.”

To view the exhibition, which ran until February 5th, visitors had to walk through a dark corridor with screens that read: “Today, you do not have to give.”

The Roma couple sat silently in a dimly lit room at the end of the corridor. The room was almost empty save for a few newspaper clippings on social problems. Easy listening music in the background complemented the bizarre atmosphere.

A Freak Show Using Europe’s Most Marginalized

The Swedish artists behind the live display, whose identity hasn’t been disclosed, claimed they had wanted to raise uncomfortable questions about global inequality. But they found themselves accused of exploiting the poor instead.

Luca Lacatus, a 28-year-old carpenter from a village in northern Romania, and his girlfriend, Marcella Cheresi, 26, were panhandling on the streets of Sweden’s third largest city when they were approached by the show’s organizers.

Post, who was the first Romani woman in Swedish history to be chosen as a candidate for a political party, thinks the organisers could have come up with less exploitative ways to convey their message.

The Roma couple are not allowed to talk to visitors Photo: Malmo Konsthall/ AFP/ Sören Billing

The Roma couple are not allowed to talk to visitors
Photo: Malmo Konsthall/ AFP/ Sören Billing

“In 2015, we can expect more from people doing an exhibition than using Romas as objects. It is very disgusting to use these kind of people; people who are enduring enough marginalization and are already exploited by society,” Post told IBTimes UK, linking the artwork to the popular Victorian freak shows.

Post finds it regrettable that the museum didn’t contact any of the Roma organisations working in Europe to understand the issues immigrants from Romania are facing and take this opportunity to publicize their actions. “Visitors don’t need to go inside the exhibition room to see poor people, they can go on the streets, every day on every corner,” she pointed out.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.


Article topics
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In