Art News June 2022: Norway’s National Museum

After eight years of delays, Norway’s National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design is set to open on June 11th. The ample space, sprawling across 13,000 square meters and housing 5,000 works, merged five of Norway’s foremost art and design institutions under one roof. This merger created a gallery with a vast scope, from classic Norweigan paintings, including Edvard Munch’s The Scream, to contemporary art, architecture, and crafts. Museum director Karin Hindsbro says, “Norwegian politicians decided to bring these four collections into one to have an institution that was able to tell the whole story from antiquity up until today about visual arts and culture (Cheshire).”


Situated on the fjord along the western waterway in Oslo, The National Museum will be the largest in the Nordic countries. In terms of size and breadth, it surpasses Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Covering nearly 100 rooms, patrons can see everything from classic sculpture to contemporary works. Exhibits in fashion even include the coronation dresses of Norway’s queens. After much debate and consideration, the museum displayed its collections in the traditional chronological order. The ground floor contains design, arts, and crafts displays. The fine arts are the focus of the first floor. Here you can see works such as Harald Sohlberg’s Winter Night in the Mountains (1914), voted Norway’s favorite painting, and pieces by prominent artists that have impacted Norweigan art, including Cézanne, Picasso, and Van Gogh. Finally, modern and contemporary works are abundant.

“Norweigan politicians decided to bring these four collections into one to have an institution that was able to tell the whole story from antiquity up until today about visual arts and culture.”

Karin Hindsbro, National Museum Director

The museum’s Munch Room has some of the Norwegian artist’s most famous works, including one of his four versions of The Scream (1893). Other pieces include The Girls on the Bridge (1901) and Self-Portrait with Cigarette (1895). Eighteen of Munch’s works will be displayed in their own gallery, and several others will be featured in the corridors and the main hall. Upon his death, the celebrated Expressionist painter bequeathed his remaining works to the city of Oslo. The Munch Museum, which opened in 1963, serves as his official estate and holds a collection of nearly 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings, and 18,000 prints. However, the National Gallery previously housed The Scream and what is believed to be one of the first Madonna (1894) paintings. Now, under the umbrella of the new National Museum, these significant examples of Norweigan art are once again available to the public.

Edvard Munch, Skrik (The Scream), 1893.  Oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard. The first version publicly displayed, and the most recognizable. It is located at the National Museum in Oslo, Norway.


The Munch Room is just one of several featured spaces. The Hall sits atop the building and is composed of thin, translucent layers of marble sandwiched between panes of glass. At night, 9,000 energy-efficient LED lights illuminate the long rectangular space, which will be home to a series of single-artist contemporary commissions. The second floor hosts The Salon, which has a bar serving drinks and light meals and offers a panoramic view of Oslo’s harbor.



The concept of a large national museum initially came about in the mid-2000s but has met with controversy and several construction delays. Foremost was the building’s price tag, which came in at approximately $6.1 billion US dollars. The exterior is gray Norweigan slate, and the interior is oak and marble with bronze fixtures. Because sustainability and environmental impact were important, it was essential that this building was made to last. Durable materials were paramount, as was using recycled materials when available. All lighting is energy efficient, and it uses water from the fjord for heating and cooling. As a result, the National Museum has half the carbon footprint of similar buildings. “There has been this huge investment in cultural institutions in Norway, in Oslo in particular, in the last decade,” Hindsbo says. “So that’s quite special and significant. We need to work closely together to maintain the momentum that we’ve got now. To have art take another position in society. And also to use art to make Norway [assume] a position internationally (Cheshire).”







Resources:
Boffey, Daniel. “Norway’s £500M National Museum to Open After Eight-Year Wait.” The Guardian, 24 Mar. 2022, www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/21/norways-500m-national-museumto-open-after-eight-year-wait.

Cheshire, Lee. “A New Home for Munch’s Scream: Take a Look Inside Norway’s Half-a-Billion Pound Mega Museum.” The Art Newspaper – International Art News and Events, 6 June 2022, www.theartnewspaper.com/2022/06/06/a-new-home-for-munchs-scream-we-look-inside-norways-half-a-billion-pound-mega-museum.


Photo Credits:
“edvard munch – the scream 1893” by oddsock is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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