Munch 150 Anniversary Exhibition & Celebration

The Munch 150 exhibition has begun. Art critics and journalists from all around the world flock to Munch’s city, Oslo, to view this unified and comprehensive presentation of Edvard Munch’s art with over 270 works displayed at the National Gallery (one of the four museums of the National Museum) and the Munch Museum. Mr Wolf joins in and gets a first glimpse.


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Location: Nasjonalgalleriet (Nasjonalmuseet) & Munch-museet, Oslo

The Munch 150 exhibition opens amidst a joyful atmosphere – just few days prior, Oslo politicians reached an agreement on establishing a new museum to house Edvard Munch’s masterpieces. The new museum, designed by Spaniard Juan Herreros in 2009, is expected to be completed in 2018. It will be situated on the shores of the Oslo fjord, next to the iconic Opera House. In a few years, the National Museum will have its new building too, with an impressive 54,000 m².

Now within the existing museums, more than 60 years of artistic creativity is displayed in the greatest Munch exhibition ever made. “Once you have seen the whole exhibition in its two venues, we’re certain that you will have a totally new impression of an artistic oeuvre, which will confirm and strengthen its position among the most important within modern art,” Director of National Museum Audun Eckhoff states in his opening speech.

Munch has been attracting a lot of attention in recent times, with over 1 million people viewing The Scream at the Museum of Modern Art in New York when it was on display for three and a half months; the success of the Modern Eye exhibition across Europe; over 20,000 publications written across the world in the past year; records are broken everywhere in other words. 

Munch’s collection of works and articles were donated to the municipality of Oslo upon his death. Director of Munch Museum Stein Olav Henrichsen describes the vast collection, “We have 27,000 artworks at the Munch Museum, including sketches. And we also have another 15,000 museum objects: 200 lithographics stones…his library, his press archive, his working tools, and so on and so forth.”

Perhaps Munch’s popularity, peaking in this celebratory year, attests to his ability to reach out to all through his art. According to Norwegian Minister of Culture Hadia Tajik, “Munch has reached out to generations, not only people who traditionally enjoy art, but also youngsters, popular culture. He has an expression that reaches out to hearts and minds throughout the world…It [this exhibition] will only be the beginning of what I believe is a new era for Munch.”

Minister Tajik also highlights a few things that we can learn from Munch. She describes artists who make the greatest difference as the ones who are able to redefine quality in art, pushing the border of our imagination of what is and what art can be – just as Munch did. Munch also showed us that developing an artist takes time, and that a scandal or two can be useful. Indeed, Munch was conscious of his public appearance and saw the chance of using debates and turmoil to draw attention to his art. On that note, Munch’s possible reaction to the Munch 150 celebrations will likely be an appreciative one, as all of this draws attention to his art.

The exhibition itself was plainly intended to excite a similarly appreciative reaction from its viewers. The emphasis placed upon the presentation of the works is clear in the fluidity of the exhibition between the National Gallery and the Munch Museum. 

 

In comparing the success of literature and visual art, Chief Curator of the Munch Museum Jon Ove Steihaug says, “Literature is not sight dependant…while original art is tied to…the site of their presentation like in the museums”. 

Viewing the exhibit at the Munch Museum directly after the National Gallery makes it clear that the intent was to make the transition between venues as smooth as possible. The National Gallery focuses on Munch’s early works from 1882 to 1903, whereas the Munch Museum shows works from 1904-1944. The journey of Munch’s life is shown in the transition from early works to his later works as the exhibit at the Munch Museum ends with a section featuring notable pieces such as Selvportrett. Mellom klokken og sengen (‘Self Portrait. Between the Clock and the Bed’, 1940-1943).

In both of the venues, the colour of the wall space is used to enhance and influence the viewers’ reactions to the pieces. The colours used (red, orange, light and dark blue) and printed wallpaper illustrates the careful planning. A notable example is the presentation of Munch’s ‘The Green Room’ series, which is set in its own space against printed green wallpaper as a theatrical representation of the domestic setting. The wallpaper follows as an extension of the background in a few of these paintings, and is an instance in which the exhibition space becomes a part of the art, taking on the recurrent emotions and motifs present in Munch’s works.

The ease by which the viewer is immersed into the artistic vision of Munch reflects the success of this approach. “Our main objective is to celebrate Edvard Munch, but we also want to expand knowledge, curiosity and enthusiasm for Munch’s life and art, locally, nationally and internationally,” says Henrichsen. The presentation of the ‘Frieze of Life’ series set in its own space against a navy blue backdrop, recreates its early showcase in Berlin under various titles from the early 1890s onward. This is a particular highlight of the exhibit, and includes several of his well-known works, including Vampire, Dance of Life, and The Scream.

Munch’s art is definitely not confined within the walls of the museums. A perfect example of this is the collection commissioned by Johan Throne Holst, founder of Freia, for the employee lunchroom of the Freia Chocolate Factory in Oslo. Today, the Freia Frieze is still located at its intended site, one of two large decoration works by Munch to do so. The other is in the University of Oslo Aula, where the official opening of Munch 150 by H.R.H Crown Prince Haakon was held.

The Munch 150 exhibition is open for public viewing from 2 June to 13 October 2013.

Images top to bottom:
- Edvard Munch, 1926
Courtesy of The Munch Museum
- Dance of Life, 1899-1900. Oil on Canvas, 125 x 191 cm. National Museum of Art, Architecture & Design, Oslo. NG.M.000941 (Woll M 464). Munch Museum 
©Børre Høstland, National Museum 
- Planning the exhibition behind the scenes. Copyright Andreas Harvik.
Copyright Andreas Harvik.

 

 

 

 

Words: Sharman Tanny & Eliza Thompson