Terry Notary portrays the ape-man "Oleg" in the film. The Russian artist Oleg Kulik was invited to the international group exhibition "Interpol" at Färgfabriken, Stockholm, Sweden. At the opening, the vernissage, Kulik performed like a dog. He glittered, jumped up, rolled and even bit the VIP crowd in their legs. Kulik said he acted as a representative of the browbeaten Russian people, who now attacked and bit back. The crowd became so scared and enraged that they called for the police. In "The Square" there is a similar, charged and offensive scene, but here the performance artist acts like a monkey.
In the film there is a monkey seemingly busy creating art. This refers to an old practical joke. An alleged self-taught French avant-garde artist, Pierre Brassau, appeared at an art exhibition in Gothenburg in 1964. A series of art connoisseurs were tricked by this intentional experiment. It was the chimpanzee Peter from Borås Zoo that had created the "spontanist painting", and the brain behind it was a gallerist and a journalist who were reported to be a police officer for fraud.
The preliminary study of "The Square" was "Rutan" (The Square), an exhibition at Vandalorum in Värnamo, Sweden, in spring 2015, where director Ruben Östlund and film producer Kalle Boman wanted to examine the trust we feel towards each other. Pictures from the exhibition are included in the film.
Östlund won the Palme d'Or for The Square, marking the first time a predominantly Swedish production received the honour since The Best Intentions in 1992 and the first time a Swedish director won since Alf Sjöberg for Miss Julie (1951).