Norway’s capital Oslo opens new temple of art: National Museum

Norway’s capital Oslo opens new temple of art: National Museum

OSLO (DPA): Norwegian capital Oslo is now home to a new National Museum for art, architecture and design with its spectacular huge building, perhaps the biggest in the Nordic countries.

The new, massive building by the port is hard to miss, even though it’s partly obscured from view by the nearby Nobel Peace Center.

Once it opens on June 11, Norway’s National Museum will be “the largest art museum in the Nordic countries,” according to the museum’s website.

German architect Klaus Schuwerk says the building has been designed to last hundreds of years.

Already in the entrance hall, you will notice that this place is all about solid quality: The floor is laid with Krensheim shell limestone, and the walls are covered with vertically cut slate and dark oak panels.

According to the architect, “the materials should stand the test of time so that the building can age with patina and dignity.” A commendable approach, though not a cheap one: Norway has spent some $636 million on the new museum.

Norway's National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design is opening in Oslo, Norway, June 3, 2022. (DPA Photo)
Norway’s National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design is opening in Oslo, Norway, June 3, 2022. (DPA Photo)

A worthy backdrop for some 6,500 artworks that will be on display here. For the first time, the collections of five institutions – the National Gallery, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the architecture museum, and National Exhibitions – will be housed in the same building, comprising a total of 400,000 artworks on 55,000 square meters (592015 square feet).

It comes as no surprise that it takes days to explore this new temple of art in its entirety, with several diverse exhibits spread across 86 rooms. Besides paintings from every epoch imaginable, you will also find Chinese vases from the Ming Dynasty, ancient busts of Roman rulers, the wardrobe of Norwegian queens Maud and Sonja, and works by sculptor Gustav Vigeland, for example.

A whole room is dedicated to Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch, with 18 of his paintings on display, including a version of his best-known work “The Scream.”

The museum has also dedicated space to more provocative work by contemporary artists, like the 200 reindeer skulls with bullet holes hanging from the ceiling in the entrance hall.

The installation by Sami artist Máret Ánne Sara is conceived as a protest against the forced killing of reindeer ordered by the Norwegian government in 2013 to limit the population.

Contemporary art is also on display in the Light Hall, which is attached to the stone building. The opening exhibition dubbed “I Call it Art” is aimed at young adults between the ages of 19 and 24, exploring the question of why some works are considered “good” art while others aren’t, and who decides.

The works by 147 artists working in Norway that will be on display here first already sparked a debate ahead of the museum’s opening. Expect to find artwork like the humorous portrait of the Norwegian royal family by Lena Trydal, in which King Harald sits on the throne in an undershirt and Queen Sonja is on the phone after a jog.

Museum director Karin Hindsbø welcomes the fact that the exhibition is already a hot topic among the Norwegian public: “Our vision is to make art accessible to all and to reflect the society and times in which we live,” she said.

From an architectural point of view, the Light Hall, dubbed the Alabaster Hall by architect Schuwerk, is certainly a highlight as well. Its 7-meter high walls are made of glass and marble cut so thin that it allows light to pass through.

Arranging artworks for display can be quite a challenge here because it’s not possible to hammer nails into the walls. Therefore many works are hanging from the ceiling, floating in space.

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