A former paper factory in the lively Norwegian town of Vestfossen was by chance stumbled upon by Norwegian artist and death obsessed Morten Viskum in 2001.
Known for his morbid choice of materials, Viskum created a shockwave in the Norwegian art scene in 1995 with one of his early works Newborn rats on olive jars. His most famous work to date is a series called The Hand that Never Stopped Painting, in which he uses a severed hand as a brushstroke to make paintings with animal blood.
Exceptional Norwegian Contemporary Art Gallery
The factory was founded in 1886 and closed down in 1973. It was not in use for almost 30 years, until the artist Morten Viskum bought it in 2001.
Between 2001 and 2003, the refurbishment of the old dilapidated factory took place, and the result became a compelling example of the reuse of old architecture, and provides an interesting scene and juncture for history and modern art.
Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium (“art laboratory” in English) was officially opened in 2003. The blank walls with peeling paint, spare brick walls and rusty banisters from the original factory have remained untouched, radiating a sense of casualness and, not least, hipness, which makes the gallery cafe in the entrance hall instantly like a hip cafe you can easily find in East London or Berlin.
In 2005, the center also launched a new exhibition space for individual artist presentations, Galleri Star, which has since sported exhibitions by renowned artists such as Sally Mann, Louise Bourgeouis and Alex Katz.
Capital of Culture
Dubbed the Capital of Culture, Vestfossen started investing in culture after the millennium, an initiative which attracted several art institutions to establish themselves in the area. Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium exhibits contemporary art by Norwegian as well as international artists.
From May to October every year, contemporary art exhibitions adorn the rough-looking exhibition spaces at Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, located in the old factory buildings having as a goal to make art interesting and available to everyone. With its unique and rough character the building itself is a significant and successful example of the reuse of older architecture, and provides an interesting historical frame for the artistic expressions of our own time.
The background of its founder and its remote, obscure location pretty much sum up its unique positioning: an 1800-square-meter art space that displays works from artists from all over the world. It puts an equal emphasis on Norwegian artists; it’s similar to Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, but it actually feels more internationally minded and less like a formal art institute, probably thanks to the derelict industrial interiors.
Art in a Rucksack
“Art in the Rucksack” is Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium’s program for and collaboration with “The Cultural Rucksack”, which is a nationally initiated program for art and culture provided for children in Norwegian schools. Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium wishes to offer a versatile educational program for all age groups within the school system and structures the lectures in close collaboration with the schools that wishes to partake in the program.
Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium is well worth a visit — absolutely perfect for an art day trip. Vestfossen is a village close to Drammen with a population of around 300, an hour away from Oslo, beautifully surrounded by picturesque nature.
Exceptional Norwegian Contemporary Art Gallery, written by Tor Kjolberg