The new Edvard Munch Museum, located on Oslo’s waterfront alongside the Oslo Opera House and the award winning Deichman – Oslo Public Library, has been exquisitely designed by the Spanish architect practice Estudio Herreros. The new museum opens its doors on 22 October. After a planning and building period of 12 years, Oslo now welcomes a new Edvard Munch Museum.
The new MUNCH Museum will be able to display more of Edvard Munch’s art than ever before in one of the world’s largest museums devoted to a single artist. “Munch gave a huge gift to Oslo. Soon we will share this gift with the rest of the world in a framework that truly does Munch’s art justice,” said the Governing Major of Oslo, Raymond Johansen, at a press conference called to announce the opening date. “The whole world is welcome to a world-class cultural attraction», he added.
“Edvard Munch is Norway’s most important contribution to art worldwide, and the museum’s collection is in great demand internationally,” says the museum’s director Stein Olav Henrichsen.
“The new MUNCH will be a cultural powerhouse for the city, the country and the world,” said Vice Mayor in Oslo for Culture And Sport, Omar Samy Gamal.
The loneliness of the soul
An exhibition by British artist Tracey Emin, who was a major influence for Munch, is among the highlights of the opening program (from October 22, 2021 through January 2, 2022). Tracey Emin is one of the UK’s most celebrated and controversial contemporary artists. In the exhibition “The Loneliness of the Soul” visitors can experience Emin’s wide-ranging artistic practice and gain rare insight into her long-standing fascination with Edvard Munch.
A vertical museum
The MUNCH Museum is a vertical museum, 58 meters high, with 13 floors and 11 exhibition spaces and will for certain put the museum as well as Oslo on the map. The translucent, perforated aluminum façade and the towering top section that bows towards the Oslo fjord make the building highly visible and recognizable from all angles.
Regarded internationally for his exploration of humanity’s darkness, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch is best known for his iconic four versions of The Scream, which depicts an agonized figure against a fiery sky. Visiting the new MUNCH will be like a journey of discovery in Edvard Munch’s art. In the opening exhibition named “Infinite” the museum invites visitors to discover the richness of Munch’s work – the themes and motifs that the artist explored repeatedly during his entire life, and that continue to touch and inspire people today.
A quick run-through of Edvard Munch
Today, Edvard Munch (1863-1944) almost needs no introduction. Nevertheless, here’s a quick run-through: Edvard Munch was the son of Christian Munch, a military doctor, and his wife Laura. He spent his childhood in Kristiania, today’s Oslo, where the family liveed on his father’s meagre doctor’s salary.
As a child, Edvard was sick and close to death more than once. At 17 years old he writes in his diary: “It is my decision now to become a painter.” Munch’s youth is shaped by the religious rigour and emotional instability of his father, but also by the creative home environment. At the age of 22, thanks to a scholarship, Munch finally travels to Paris where he stays for three weeks. For the first time, a bigger world beyond Norway opens up to him.
In 1885 Munch has his first love affair. In the coastal town of Åsgårdstrand, where he often spends his summers, he meets Milly Thaulow who is four years older and married. Their secret relationship fills him with lust and love, but also shame and ambivalence.
In the spring of 1889, Munch rents a space in Kristiania and fills it with his own paintings. It is the very first solo exhibition in the city, a bold move which helps him secure a scholarship for a one-year stay in Paris.
Munch and his association with Berlin artists
In 1892 Munch is invited to exhibit his pictures at the Association of Berlin Artists. Munch’s art polarizes opinion among the members of the Association and shocks the German public. After only one week the show is shut down. However, he makes new friends in Berlin, among them the Swedish writer and artist August Strindberg, the Polish author Stanisław Przybyszewski and the music student, Dagny Juel. They gather at a wine tavern which Strindberg names ‘The Black Piglet’. It is a place of excess, freedom and intellectual sparks, with energetic discussions about life and art, accompanied by heavy drinking. In this period Munch creates some of his most famous motifs, including The Scream (pastel version), Vampire, Puberty and Madonna.
In this period, he also first discovered printmaking. He used various techniques before finally trying his hand at woodcuts, which perhaps gave him the greatest freedom for exploration. The audience is invited to try their hands at one of his motifs in a special workshop.
Edvard Munch spent his last 30 years of his life at Ekely, his estate just outside Oslo. He died peacefully in his sleep on the 23rd of January 1944. His life’s work was bequeathed to the city of Oslo. 77 years later, Norway’s capital city will finally have a museum big enough to showcase the entire collection.
The Ekely villa was demolished in 1960, but in a new exhibition “Shadows”, Munch’s home has been reconstructed in a multimedia installation that uses light, sound and moving images to tell stories from his life.
Large scale paintings
In a dedicated double-height space you can experience some of the largest paintings ever created by Edvard Munch, the largest measures approximately 50 square meters, are versions of the paintings made by Munch for the University of Oslo’s Ceremonial Hall.
Edvard Munch had close relationships with a number of supporters, including the art collector and business man Rolf E. Stenersen. Initially, Stenersen only bough works by Munch but gradually broadened the scope of his collection. Visitor’s will now have the opportunity to experience Munch in company with works by other important Nordic artists collected by Stenersen.
“Nothing is small, nothing is great” is a quotation from one of the biggest mysteries in Munch’s collection. No one really knows why Munch assembled this album but it draws attention to the diversity of the collection he left behind.
The Norwegian black metal band Satyricon meets Edvard Munch’s art in the exhibition “Satyricon & Munch” which explores the intersection of black metal and visual art, where a specially composed musical work is connected with a selection of Edvard Munch’s images.
SOLO OSLO is a series of exhibitions featuring young Oslo-based artists supported by Talent Norge and Canica AS. The first exhibitor is Sandra Mujinga (born 1989), a Norwegian artist and musician who works with sculpture performance text, electronic music, photography and video, often all combined in a single work.
Munch is often associated with Symbolism, a movement in literature and the visual arts that emerged in the 1880s. The exhibition THE SAVAGE EYE focuses on the relationship between Surrealism and some of the most important Symbolist artists, including Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, August Strindberg, Edvard Munch and Auguste Rodin.
Eat, Drink and Enjoy
The MUNCH Museum is also a place to eat, drink and enjoy. Past the museum’s lobby you will find Munch Dell & Bakery. On the 12th floor you will find the bistro that leans on continental traditions with a smile.
The view from the 13th floor can be enjoyed best with a good pillow in the back and bubbles in the glass while you look down on the city and the fjord.
Oslo Welcomes a New Edvard Munch Museum, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top) Photo by Tor Kjolberg