An Art Lover’s Guide to Oslo, Norway

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The opening of two landmark museums in the past 12 months has put Oslo on the map for anyone interested in art history. With an eye-catching new library, the museums are the latest step in the decades-long transformation of Oslo’s waterfront.

If you are planning a trip to the Norwegian capital, here are the must-see artistic sites.

national museum

After many years of waiting, the new National Museum of Norway finally opened its doors to the public last month.

The sprawling waterside facility designed by Klaus Schuwerk has one major advantage: there is more room than ever for the public display of paintings, contemporary art, architecture and arts exhibits, crafts and design from the collection of the national museum. So much space, in fact, that the museum has more exhibition space than the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

The first floor focuses on design and craftsmanship, ranging from imperial porcelain to contemporary Norwegian fashion, including the collection of royal costumes. Head upstairs for the extensive art collection, arranged chronologically in over 50 rooms.

The development of Norwegian landscape painting and its role in national identity are in the spotlight, as is the emotional trauma of Edvard Munch. French art of the 19th century and its influence on Norwegian art are also presented.

Munch Museum

Whatever you think of the controversial exterior design, the contents of the Munch Museum are an in-depth study of the strange, emotionally charged world of Norway’s most famous artist.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) had a difficult childhood with a family that suffered from mental illness, a trauma resulting from his unique creative expression later in life. Munch was known to prefer his work displayed in context. Now that one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to a single artist is open, Munch gets his wish.

Three different versions of his most famous work The Scream are on display, rotating every hour. There is another, believed to be the original, in the National Museum.

Tracey Emin was one of many artists who were heavily influenced by Munch throughout her life. Although his first major Nordic exhibition The loneliness of the soul which opened the museum is now complete, his presence remains through his spectacular 29-foot tall sculpture The mothernow in place outside the museum.

Astrup Fearnley

Modern art lovers are also well catered for in Oslo thanks to the Astrup Fearnley Museum. Another architectural highlight on the capital’s waterfront, the private museum contains one of the most comprehensive collections of international contemporary art in Europe.

Designed by Renzo Piano, the angled boat-shaped exterior reflects the region’s maritime heritage. Themes include the young American art scene, American and European pop art, and 1980s post-modern appropriation art.

Open until the end of August 2022, a temporary exhibition featuring the work of textile artist Synnøve Anker Aurdal (1908-2000) presents previously unseen works in public. Known for combining older craft techniques with modern artistic influences, Anker Aurdal has used copper, fiberglass, nylon and even metal chain threads and often weaved words of influential poetry into her work.

Sculpture parks

Oslo’s Vigeland Sculpture Park attracts millions of visitors to leafy Frogner Park every year. The 46-foot-tall monolith depicting 121 intertwined human figures is a highlight of the park and of the entire Norwegian art scene.

During your stay in Vigeland Park, it is well worth a short detour to the city museum. A small but fascinating collection of paintings and photographs shows the development of Oslo over the centuries.

Elsewhere in town, the 31 sculptures by international artists set in the woods of the Ekeberg Sculpture Park are well worth the short tram ride. Many people make the trip just to see Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali Venus de Milo with drawers.

Finally, don’t miss the sculptures inspired by fairy tales in the gardens of the royal palace. Named after future queen Princess Ingrid Alexandra, the sculpture park was designed based on submissions from schoolchildren across Norway.

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