Oslo Celebrates 150 Years of Munch

2013 is a celebration in the Norwegian Arts calendar. It marks the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birth. Collaborating on the Munch 150 celebrations are the Munch Museum and the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo.  The museum directors are very busy working on this, but took some time to answer Mr Wolf’s questions.

Stein Olav Henrichsen 

Stein Olav Henrichsen 

Munch-Moderne Øye (1 of 72).jpg
Munch-Moderne Øye (13 of 72).jpg
The Modern Eye  Exhibition, Oslo

The Modern Eye Exhibition, Oslo

In conversation with: Stein Olav Henrichsen, Director Munch-museet Oslo

The Munch Museum was established in 1963 after Edvard Munch left his works and other objects to the City of Oslo; approximately 2/3 of his entire production, 2, 8000 artworks including sketches and 15, 000 other objects including tools, library, 200 lithographic stones, 200 sketchbooks, etc. It houses some of the greatest artworks of Edvard Munch, among them The Scream and other icons, and has probably the world’s biggest monographic collection. Today, the museum’s greatest challenge is indifference, but that seems to be no immediate problem: There were more than 19, 000 press articles written worldwide about Munch and the Museum only last year!

The travelling exhibition The Modern Eye has previously been shown at Centre Pompidou in Paris, Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, and Tate Modern in London. The Modern Eye had almost a million visitors. The attention in worldwide press for more than a year was huge. Great impact globally, which lifted the interest and knowledge of Edvard Munch and his art tremendously. We receive invitations from the most distinguished museums worldwide to do collaborations and loans in order to show Munch's art everywhere. The interest is enormous.

On the Norwegian Arts program:
Oslo is a fairly small town; 650, 000 inhabitants. The art scene is lively, international and very diverse. And includes of course the world’s well-known Munch Museum. For its size, it is incredible activity. Munch is one of our greatest artists and a strong international voice. That reflects the position of our museum both nationally and internationally.

On Munch:
Munch has been a strong inspiration for artists living in his time and afterwards. Many contemporary artists express their strong relationship and respect to Munch.
He is not only an artist that means a lot to a lot of people all over the world, but also inspires artists from many different cultures. Munch also had a direct influence on the development of the German expressionism in the late 1800s, opening up the aesthetical path to expressionistic expressions.

I am not sure Munch has shaped the international perspective of Norway, but it is important that Norway has a strong voice in the international society, so that our perspectives, values and experience, are part of the collective global expression. Munch was first of all an international artist, coming from Norway. Munch is an important part of our common identity. Owned by everyone on different levels.

"The dream is to be one of the world's most respected museums!"

On Munch 150:
A full year of celebration all over the world is dedicated to this artist. Lots of exhibitions and other activities will take place. Almost 20 new books being released, a new documentary and lots more. The role of our museum is to coordinate the anniversary activities and to be in charge of the official program, all this together with the National Museum. We also produce a lot of activities ourselves, most importantly the anniversary exhibition in the summer of 2013.

On the future of the Munch Museum:
The future plan is first of all to build a new and bigger, more modern museum for the collection. Then we will work even harder to show Munch to a world that wants to see him. The dream is to be one of the world’s most respected museums!

Henrichsen has many favourites among Munch’s Art. He lists Puberty as high on his list at any time.

Image Copyright The Munch Museum 2013 

udun Eckhoff

udun Eckhoff

"The new National Arts Museum will be one of Norway’s most important and monumental buildings. In addition, the environmental standards are high and security issues are central. An extensive planning period is behind us; we now look forward to starting the building process." Øivind Christoffersen, CEO, Statsbygg

Location: Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design Oslo
In conversation with: Audun Eckhoff, Director

As a National Museum, we have a special responsibility to collect and exhibit works from the most important trends within Norwegian visual art, design and architecture, and to highlight the national visual heritage within an international context. In addition to the activity in Oslo, we also have an extensive touring program, particularly around Norway, but also abroad.

Being from a small country in the periphery of Europe, Norwegian artists always considered it a necessity to be active abroad. The “founder” of the modern Norwegian painting, Johann Christian Dahl, was a close friend of the German Romantic Caspar David Friedrich in the early 19th century, and as a professor in Dresden he was actually more famous in his time than Friedrich. In a more recent perspective, Edvard Munch is the single most important Norwegian artist who certainly inspired later expressionist art and is a pioneer of modern art. The National Museum and the Munch Museum celebrate the 150 years anniversary of his birth this summer with the most comprehensive exhibition ever.  At present, Norwegian artists are active everywhere and a particularly large community resides in Berlin and other hot spots. Within architecture, the firm Snøhetta is world famous for its design of the library in Alexandria, and later on for the design of the new Opera House in Oslo.

Traditionally, Norwegians have been a nature-oriented people with a leaning toward rustic expressions and simplicity. However, a new urban trend makes itself felt among the younger generation. Most Norwegians own their own homes, and devote a lot of energy and aesthetic care in decorating their living spaces.

On the Norwegian Arts program:
Considering Norway’s modest size, the country has quite an active arts program. However, the National Museum has had inadequate facilities for a long time.

On the architectural landscape of Norway: The recent exhibition, Importing Architecture, showcases the works of foreign architects and recent architecture competitions held in Norway. This phenomenon is a sign of a strong internationalisation of Norwegian architecture. This is primarily a result of the agreement with the EU according to which all Norwegian businesses are required to compete on equal terms with foreign ones. Besides, many Norwegian architects work in “foreign” firms and vice versa, so the distinction between Norwegian and foreign architecture is quite blurred.

On Munch 150:
The Munch 150, in particular the great exhibition lasting from June 2 until mid-October, will not only be the greatest art event in Norway, but among the absolute highlights on the international art scene this year. Certainly, the anniversary will have a great effect on the world of art, the people of Norway and all visitors during the year. Our ambition is that by the end of the year, we will have initiated a new level of understanding and promotion of the significance of Edvard Munch on a national and international level. The great success of the exhibition The Modern Eye, shown in Paris, Frankfurt and London last year, highlighted the great potential we see for Munch. We also hope that the city of Oslo will finally reach a decision to build a new Munch museum, a matter which is long overdue. As for the National Museum, we expect a final decision in the Parliament this year and a start-up of the actual building next year.

On the National Museum’s future:
My dream is that the museum will benefit from all the improvement processes that we have initiated in the last few years, and continue its significance as a national institution, but also increase its standing and attractiveness internationally. The new museum building will enable us to fully realize these goals, including the ambition to fulfil the cross-disciplinary potential as an all-arts museum. I certainly hope I shall be able to open that museum!







Kleihues + Schuwerk Gesellschaft von Architekten won the design competition for Oslo's new National Museum schudueled to open 2019/20. Together with the recent opening of Renzo Piano designed Astrup Fearnley museum for Contemporary Art redevelopment, the new museum between Aker Brygge and the square in front of the City Hall will ensure Oslo remains at the forefront of the international arts community. 

Words: Sharman Tanny