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Artist Jonas Gardell is awarded KTH Great Prize

Jonas Gardell, the recipient of KTH's 2017 Great Prize. (Photo: Thron Ullberg)
Published Jun 14, 2017

Swedish author, playwright, comedian and artist Jonas Gardell was named as this year’s recipient of the KTH Stora Pris (Great Prize). Gardell has worked on behalf of the disenfranchised for many years and been recognized with a variety of honors and prizes.

The 53-year-old Gardell is one of the most established cultural figures in Sweden – one who rarely leaves audiences feeling indifferent. Not least, he recently captivated a national television audience with a three-part film adaptation of his novel, Don't Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves, which dramatized the impact of AIDS in Stockholm’s gay community during the 1980s.

"With a mixture of deep seriousness and intense humor, Jonas Gardell gently helps us to confront our prejudices and shortcomings,” the university’s citation reads. “Through his borderless artistry, he has changed and deepened our perspective when it comes to alienation and its devastating consequences. At the same time, he earnestly defends human dignity and the right to self-determination.”

Sigbritt Karlsson, President of KTH, says that Gardell is a very worthy recipient of the KTH prize.

“The multi-medium creativity and capacity to see humanity’s possibilities – and equal value – are parts of Gardell’s artistry that are very inspiring for us all – not least for KTH in its role as an engine of society’s development,” Karlsson says.

The prize will be awarded during KTH’s annual promotion ceremony in the Stockholm Concert Hall on November 17. The honor includes a cash prize of 1.2 million Swedish kronor, or about EUR 123,000.

Gardell says he comes from a family of humanists. Both mother and father were college graduates, but technology was not their area.

“Papa was so impractical, he could not saw off a board,” Gardell says, adding that until today he has had no connection with KTH whatsoever. With only a high school education on his CV, he says he is the least worthy winner of the prize ever, when one totals the number of educational credits.

“However, I hope that through more than 30 years of work I have collected some small lessons and gained a little insight. And when institutions like KTH pay attention to me, I see it as a kind of invitation for conversation. A way to say, ‘we've seen what you do and we appreciate it.’”

In addition to the festivities for the prize, Gardell says he hopes to find, together with KTH, some other opportunity for conversation and dialogue.

Peter Ardell

More about KTH's Great Prize

About Jonas Gardell

Jonas Gardell has received numerous awards and honors, among them Sweden’s Guldbagge award for best screenplay and the Swedish TV award Kristallen. He holds honorary doctorates Lund University and Linköping University.

He grew up in a Christian family in the Baptist Church, and Gardell refers to the Bible as their main source of inspiration.

He has also authored several op-ed pieces on the subject of cyber hate and social media.