After many years of development including several lengthy delays, the new National Museum of Norway is finally open to the public. The ‘big, grey box’ as it has been dubbed by critics holds few clues as to the contents, so here’s what to expect if you plan on visiting one of the most eagerly-awaited cultural attractions in the Nordics.
More on display than ever before
Even though the new museum replaces four previous buildings, there is enough room for more paintings, contemporary art, architecture exhibits, and arts and crafts from the full collection than ever before.
Visitors can expect to enjoy diverse exhibits including coronation dresses of Norway’s queens, the story of the development of Scandinavian design, porcelain from the Ming Dynasty, thought-provoking contemporary art and Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
“Norwegian politicians decided to bring these four collections into one to have an institution that was able to tell the whole story from antiquity up until today about visual arts and culture”, said museum director Karin Hindsbo.
You’ll need to plan
While bringing the full collection under one roof creates a true cultural destination for Oslo, it does present challenges for visitors.
With 13,000 square meters of exhibition space, Norway’s National Museum is bigger than Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Bilbao’s Guggenheim.
Avoid overwhelm by visiting the museum website in advance to figure out which of the 100+ rooms interests you most. That task is made slightly easier by the museum’s decision to choose a (mostly) chronological-based layout.
The need to plan also includes booking timed entrance tickets well in advance. Demand for tickets is likely to be great from locals, not just tourists visiting Oslo this summer. Norwegians have been waiting for eight years for the museum to open.
An eye-catching entrance
Your experience begins the moment you step inside the foyer. Guests are greeted by a tapestry made up of 400 polished reindeer skulls by Sámi artist Máret Ánne Sara.
The importance of the piece goes beyond shock value. It is not a new piece of art, having been used as a Sámi protest symbol against policies of the Norwegian state for many years.
The fact it is on display at all is the result of lengthy debate and negotiation. For example, if the museum decides to remove the piece from the foyer, it must be returned to a museum in the Sámi area of Northern Norway.
Museum curator Randi Godø called it a statement piece about the museum’s intention to reflect all aspects of Norwegian culture and history.
An international flavor
While there is a substantial focus on Norwegian artists across the collection, there is a smattering of international names in order to show the biggest influences on Norwegian art including Cézanne, Picasso and Van Gogh.
The museum’s deal with the Fredriksen Family Collection also ensures a constant supply of international artwork in order to form a wider historical narrative.
Collected by sisters Kathrine and Cecilie Fredriksen in memory of their mother, Inger Astrup Fredriksen, the collection will be cycled through in the museum, beginning with a focus on pioneering female artists.
The light room
While the stone exterior has been criticized for its dull experience, the museum is crowned by a vast light hall. Lit by 9,000 energy-efficient LED lights, the 25,000-square-foot hall is hard to miss.
Designed to host temporary exhibitions, the vast space will be able to host installations on a scale never before possible in Norway.
The closure of the old national gallery withdrew the paintings of Edvard Munch from public display for years. The recent opening of the Munch museum solved that problem, returning the world-famous Norwegian artist to prominence.
Now the national gallery’s much-loved Munch room returns, putting Madonna and The Scream back on public display. The new Munch museum displays three other versions including a pencil drawing of The Scream, but the one in the National Museum is believed to be the first one painted by Munch.