Art Lover’s Guide to Oslo, Norway

The opening of two leading museums in the last 12 months has put Oslo firmly on the map for anyone interested in art history. Together with an attractive new library, the museums are the latest stage in the decades-long transformation of the Oslo coast.

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

National Museum

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

The huge onshore facility, designed by Klaus Schuwerk, has one big advantage: there is more space for public display of paintings, contemporary art, architectural exhibits and arts, crafts and design from the National Museum’s collection than ever before. In fact, so much space that the museum has more exhibition space than the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

The first floor focuses on design and crafts ranging from imperial porcelain to contemporary Norwegian fashion, including a collection of royal costumes. Go upstairs for the huge art collection, arranged chronologically in more than 50 rooms.

The development of Norwegian landscape painting and its role in national identity came into the spotlight, as did Edward Munch’s emotional trauma. 19th-century French art and its influence on Norwegian art are also on display.

Munch Museum

Whatever you think of the controversial exterior design, the contents of the Munch Museum are a comprehensive exploration of the strange emotionally charged world of the most famous Norwegian artist.

Edward Munch (1863-1944) suffered a difficult childhood with a family suffering from a mental illness, a trauma that led to his unique creative expression later in life. Munch is known to prefer to present his work in context. Now that one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to an artist has opened, Munch has his wish.

Three different versions of his most famous work The scream are exposed, rotating every hour. There is another one – believed to be the original – at the National Museum.

Tracy Emin was one of many artists who was heavily influenced by Munch throughout his life. Although her first major Scandinavian exhibition The loneliness of the soul who opened the museum is now over, her presence remains through her dramatic 29-foot-tall sculpture The mothernow on site outside the museum.

Astrup Fernley

Fans of modern art are also well served in Oslo thanks to the Astrup Fearnley Museum. Another architectural highlight of the capital’s coast, the private museum, contains one of the most comprehensive collections of international contemporary art in Europe.

Designed by Renzo Piano, the sloping boat-like exterior reflects the maritime heritage of the area. Topics include the young American art scene, American and European pop art, and the postmodern art of appropriation from the 1980s.

Opened until the end of August 2022, a temporary exhibition presenting the work of textile artist Synnøve Anker Aurdal (1908-2000) presents works never seen before in public. Known for combining older craft techniques with the influences of modern art, Anker Aurdal uses threads of copper, glass fibers, nylon and even metal chains and often weaves words of influential poetry into her work.

Sculpture parks

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

While in Vigeland Park, it is worth taking a short tour of the city museum. A small but fascinating collection of paintings and photographs shows the development of Oslo over the centuries.

Elsewhere in the city, the 31 sculptures by international artists located in the woods of Ekeberg Sculpture Park are well worth the short tram ride. Many people take the trip just to see the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali Venera Milosska with drawers.

Finally, don’t miss the fairytale-inspired sculptures in the gardens of the Royal Palace. Named after the future Queen Princess Ingrid Alexandra, the sculpture park was designed based on suggestions from students from all over Norway.

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