• Norway's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Edvard Munch at pains to win favour in Norway

AFP · 26 Dec 2012, 21:29

Published: 26 Dec 2012 21:29 GMT+01:00

Next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the expressionist master, who painted the now iconic "The Scream". But the anniversary is clouded by the city of Oslo's inability to provide a proper setting for the art gems the painter left in his will.

Munch, who died in 1944, bequeathed an enormous collection to the Norwegian capital, including 1,100 paintings, 3,000 drawings and 18,000 etchings.

But the current Munch Museum, constructed cheaply after World War II in a rather rundown Oslo neighbourhood, does not do justice to the priceless trove.

"It's time to have something more modern that would enable us to better welcome the public and exhibit Munch's work from other perspectives, in broader contexts, both his and ours," museum director Stein Olav Henrichsen said.

While all agree on the need for a better museum, there are divisions over where to place it.

Oslo's city council agreed in 2008 to erect a building near the new, futuristic opera house on the shores of the Oslo fjord, but those plans were scrapped three years later when the populist right suddenly withdrew its support without a concrete explanation.

The move was a shock and an embarrassment: a Spanish architecture firm had already been hired and had drawn up plans for Lambda, a super-modern leaning glass building, to great expense.

The issue has been at a standstill ever since, and Oslo has been unable to come to an agreement on any of the current options.

Those include a return to the Spanish concept; or a move to the ageing main building of the National Gallery downtown; or perhaps a total renovation of the museum's current location just outside the city centre. All are estimated to cost around 1.6 billion kroner ($285 million).

Failure to reach agreement could be interpreted as a Norwegian cold shoulder to the country's most famous artist, in sharp contrast to his huge international appeal.

A million people recently visited a Munch exhibit that toured Paris, Frankfurt and London. And one of the four versions of "The Scream" -- the only one in private hands -- was sold this year at a New York auction for the record sum of $119.9 million.

By comparison, the Munch Museum in Oslo attracts around 126,000 visitors per year, even though it owns two versions of "The Scream", perhaps the most famous expression of existential angst.

And it's not certain the visitor numbers will soar even if Oslo gets a brand new Munch museum.

"I don't think Norwegians really understand the power of Edvard Munch's work," Henrichsen said. "His cultural and economic importance is underestimated here."

The artist's descendants are meanwhile eager to see the issue resolved.

His great-great-niece, Elisabeth Munch Ellingsen, called the impasse "shameful and scandalous".

Story continues below…

"Considering the treasure they're sitting on, it's shameful the local politicians can't find a solution. When they decided to apply to host the Olympic Winter Games, it took them five minutes," she said.

Ellingsen has sent a letter to the government asking it to intervene, but to no avail. Culture Minister Hadia Tajik responded that Munch's bequest was to the city of Oslo and not the state.

While Munch features on Norway's highest-value banknote of 1,000 kroner, this is not the first time the artist's legacy has been mistreated.

Oslo demolished the home he left to the city in his will and turned part of the land into a parking lot in 1960.

In Norway, it sometimes seems the only ones who really covet Munch are thieves: two versions of "The Scream" were stolen in 1994 and 2004. Both paintings were later recovered.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Norway kids and parents tell each other to log off
Parents and kids accuse each other of spending too much time online. Photos: Jan Haas and Frank May / NTB scanpix

Norwegian parents are critical of the amount of time their children spend online but their children feel the exact same way about them.

Norway firm opens office in Minecraft
The Oslo firm set up their island office on Norway's biggest Minecraft server. Screenshot: Heisholt Inc

The company behind the world's first ever live Minecraft concert has now set up shop within the popular gaming platform.

79-year-old Norwegian lands plane with no propeller
Garstad's propeller (left) was found after his crash landing at Sola (right). Photos: Arnstein Løvbrekke/NTB Scanpix and Florian Pépellin/WikiCommons

The veteran pilot said the air traffic controllers were "more flustered than me” when he told them he was coming in for a crash landing.

Norway oil investments set to drop again in 2017
After 15 years of solid growth boosted by rising oil and gas prices, the Norwegian economy has rapidly slumped. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

Oil investments, one of the main drivers of Norway's economy, are expected to fall for a third straight year.

App-surd! Norwegians read app terms for 32 hours
The Norwegian consumer protection agency staged the readathon as part of its #appfail campaign. Photo: Forbrukerrådet

In a live-streamed 'readathon' Norway consumers read the "very bad" terms and conditions of popular smartphone apps.

Norway firm to buy portion of Finland defence company
Patria specializes in armoured vehicles. Photo: Patria

A portion of Finnish state-owned defence manufacturer Patria will be privatized through a sell to Kongsberg, a partially state-owned defence company in Norway.

'Historic': McDonald's agrees to contain Arctic cod fishing
The McDonald's on Nedre Slottsgate in Oslo. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / SCANPIX

For the first time ever, major players in the seafood industry have voluntarily imposed limitations on industrial fishing in the Arctic.

Norwegian ship rescues over 1,000 refugees
Kripos said that the ship had never before brought so many people on board. Photo: Kripos/Scanpix

The Norwegian rescue vessel Siem Pilot on Wednesday came to the aid of more than 1,000 people off the coast of Libya.

Shareholders at Norway's Opera accept Chinese bid
Opera's Oslo offices. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / Scanpix

Deal for the world's fight-biggest internet browser will now need US and Chinese approval.

Ryanair departure will doom Norway airport
Passengers depart a Ryanair flight at Moss Airport Rygge. Photo: Jon Olav Nesvold / NTB scanpix

The board of directors at Moss Airport Rygge will shut down the airport's commercial operations if Irish carrier Ryanair makes good on its threats to abandon its base there.

Society
Record number of kids mark Norway's National Day
Take a ride on Norway's most spectacular road
Travel
Take a ride on Norway's most spectacular road
All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
National
All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
National
Norway violated mass murderer's human rights: court
Modern-day Norwegian Viking conquers Instagram
Lifestyle
Modern-day Norwegian Viking conquers Instagram
Global protests condemn 'legal kidnapping' in Norway
National
Global protests condemn 'legal kidnapping' in Norway
Norway to allow gay church weddings
Society
Church of Norway to allow same-sex weddings
'No means no': Norway sends migrants on anti-rape courses
National
'No means no': Norway sends migrants on anti-rape courses
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
Society
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Health
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
National
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
National
Memo: Norway 'not mentally prepared' for refugees' impact
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Society
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
National
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
Politics
Norway's tough asylum plans face resistance
National
'Patriot' group Soldiers of Odin debut in Norway
National
Oslo is the real ‘Capital of Scandinavia’
Health
Norway ads use Hitler teddy bear to scare parents... about dust
National
Migrants: Norway 'sending us to death' in Russia
Norway under fire over tough new asylum plans
2,040
jobs available