This year, a whole world celebrates Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. It is 150 years since he was born, and a series of exhibitions are celebrating his work and artistic influence.
Edvard Munch bequeathed most of his works to the city of Oslo. The gift included about 1,200 paintings, 18,000 prints, 4,700 drawings and six sculptures. In addition, nearly 500 plates, 2,240 books, note books, documents, photographs, tools, supplies, and furniture. Munch’s extensive collection of letters was later bequeathed to the museum by his sister Inger Munch, along with a significant number of original works, most of them from the 1880s.
In 1963, almost 20 years after the painter’s death, the MunchMuseum opened its doors at Tøyen in Oslo’s east side. Edvard Munch’s bequest to the city of Oslo had given the capital a tourist attraction appreciated by all art lovers.
Norway does not have many world-renowned names. Edvard Munch is an exception. His art draws full houses when exhibited – at least outside the country.
The truth is that in Norway, “the Scream” painting was temporarily removed from the MunchMuseum due to moisture damage. The museum’s management and Munch’s heirs have long called for a new building. The old museum is in such poor condition that the collection slowly disintegrates.
In 2009, after the announcement of an international architectural competition, Oslo City Council decided to go for Juan Herreros’ vertical Munch museum “Lambda” located in Bjørvika, Oslo city center.
The decision was the beginning of an agonizing and endless political localization debate. Arguments against Lambda are that the building is ugly, too high, too large or too expensive. Others believe that the MunchMuseum should remain on the east side at Tøyen.
The Progress Party will primarily examine the possibility of moving Munch’s art to the National Gallery at Tullinløkka. The Socialist Left Party, the Red Party and the Norwegian Green Party will investigate the possibility to expand and/or build a new museum at Tøyen. While the conservatives and liberals are stuck with the Lambda-solution. The problem is that none of the groups have a majority in the City Council and there is little willingness to compromise.
While the Oslo politicians are arguing about the location of the new museum, Minister of Culture Hadja Tajik declared that when they agree – the Norwegian Government is willing to contribute financially – but this assumes that a final decision is made by the Oslo City Council.
ThorNews believes that the location of the new Munch museum has turned into a farce and a battle of prestige, and that the time has come to make a binding decision. We are temped to quote an old, Norwegian phrase: “Til lags åt alle kann ingjen gjera.” (English: “You can’t please everyone”).
We are confident that the new museum will become an attractive tourist destination – regardless of location. The MunchMuseum management estimates that an annual audience influx could increase from the current 120,000 visitors at Tøyen to about 400,000 Thus, a threefold increase.
A new museum will provide Munch increased international attention, more visitors, higher income and more space for larger exhibitions – the attention he deserves. In addition, it will provide a greater opportunity for Oslo to accept – and share – exhibitions with international museums.
While Edvard Munch’s art is waiting for a new home – we console ourselves with that being homeless is a situation that was familiar to the great artist. The German painter Herman Schlittgen (1859-1930) wrote after visiting Munch in Berlin in the 1890s: “He always stayed in pensions and was constantly on the move (…)”
Text by: ThorNews
Photo by: MIR/Herreros Arquitectos