Big House Up Close: The Wanås Estate

The Wanås Estate

Wanås is a unique and magical place in which nature, agriculture, history, and contemporary art thrive, in Östra Göinge of northeastern Skåne, to the west of Knislinge, in southern Sweden. Holding a historic castle, organic farm, and modern art institution as well as pastures and forests, it offers a variety of sights, products, and activities to its visitors and customers.

The Wanås Castle

The Wanås Castle is a medieval Danish style white castle. Eskild Aagesen was believed to be the first owner of Wanås around the year 1440. The 15th century castle is located in an area that was known to be vulnerable and tumultuous during the wars between Sweden and Denmark until around the 17th century. The castle burned early on during the Nordic Seven Years War, which occurred between Sweden and Denmark–Norway, Lübeck, and Poland from 1563 to 1570. It was rebuilt in 1566 and some of the ruins remained present in the renovation.

During what are sometimes known as the Snapphane wars in the 17th-century, Wanås was again a central location (a snapphane was a term used to describe a pro-Danish guerrilla organization). Wanås’ park still holds an oak tree that is 500 years old and that was used for war hangings. Baroness Lena Sofia von Putbus was known to take on the repairs of Wanås after the wars and the castle walls still bear her initials. From 1689 on the castle’s appearance has been maintained fairly consistently. Betty Jennings built the stables in the late 18th century. The Wachtmeister family has owned Wanås since the 19th century and it is currently a private home.

Wanås Konst (Art)

In 1987, Marika Wachtmeister founded The Wanås Konst Center for Art and Education and was the center’s director until 2010. This contemporary international hub for artistic expression offers both an Art Gallery and immense sculpture park with both permanent and temporary exhibitions. There are over 50 site specific permanent pieces on display. The Wanås site shares that participating artists in their site-specific permanent program have included:

Jacob Dahlgren, Dan Graham, Charlotte Gyllenhammar, Ann Hamilton, Henrik Håkansson, Jan Håfstrom, Jenny Holzer, Per Kirkeby, Marianne Lindberg De Geer, Srinivasa Prasad, Yoko Ono, Ann-Sofi Sidén, and Robert Wilson.

A full list is here. Wanås Konst is proud to also engage “the cousins of the visual arts: design, dance, architecture, text, and even science.” Above, see an image of a dance performance by Rachel Tess and Luis Alberto Rodriguez called Scratch. Below is a shot of Anne Thulin’s Double Dribble.

They provide diverse, interactive arts education experiences to the over 8,000 children who visit and explore annually and they focus on keeping their programs fresh and accessible to all. Elisabeth Millqvist and Mattias Givell are the current co-directors. Wanås Konst also publishes books through Wanås Editions and offers tours and seminars. Guests can also stop at the Wanås Shop to peruse and buy local toys, art books, and other artistic objects. Their site shares that, “[t]he aim is to provide for playful learning to familiarize the visitor with art and culture.” Below, an image of their Fairy tale Festival:

The site explains the Wanås perspective on how art and environmental concerns often overlap:

Arts institutions often have a negative impact on the environment through, among other things, the use of climate controlled exhibition spaces, long-distance transport of works of art, use of packaging materials, and by continually building new exhibits to captivate their audiences.

Wanås Konst strives to be an environmentally aware art venue in that it participates in permanent and on-site outdoor temporary exhibitions and encourages visiting artists to travel in the most environmentally friendly methods possible. Their sculpture park and beautiful grounds are preserved and intended to encourage visitors to spend time in and gain new perspectives on and appreciation for both art and the natural world. Since 2009, Wanås has been a proud member of the Ecolabelling Sweden network, which requires a pledge to consistently engage in environmentally friendly practices.

Farm and Forest

The farm at Wanås is the largest organic milk farm and producer in Skåne, Sweden, and is also one of the largest in all of Northern Europe. The farm and estate have a beech forest and agriculture and hunting programs. The farming and animal husbandry are overseen by KRAV organic and the around 3,000 hectare (about 7413 acres) of forestland at Wanås have been sustainably managed for the last century.

Wanås also offers an organic café (below) with locally sourced lunches and Swedish fika (a Swedish coffee break with snacks–sounds lovely). Wanås has been a Global Ecosphere Retreat®, certified by the Long Run Destination, since 2012. This means that they embody, deliver, and balance the Long Run “4 C’s” which are conservation, community, culture, and commerce.

I first discovered Wanås while writing about land-based art, and have been a big fan ever since. One of my travel dreams is to visit and spend a long, lazy, lovely day walking around and exploring this estate. Wanås is fertile and beautiful in so many wonderful ways. The estate hosts between about 60k-80k guests each year. While the outdoor sculpture park is open year round, some areas are closed during winter months, so the warmer seasons are probably the best time for a trip to Wanås. You can stay up-to-date on their happenings and offerings on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Julia Travers


2 responses to “Big House Up Close: The Wanås Estate

  1. Great post! Thank you for writing about this wonderful place. I currently live in Sweden, far more north than Skåne, but Wanås Estate is officially on my list of places to visit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s