16.11.2014 - 21.11.2014 0 °C
I did a fair amount of reading up on the sights to be seen in Oslo, apart from those which I would encounter as I just walked around more or less aimlessly. Two things stood out as being something I'd make a special effort to see: coincidentally, both involved art. The first was a modern art museum on the tip of an obviously newly developed site: glossy, angular glass and wood and steel structures housing apartments, finance institutions, bars, cafes, bakeries, boutique shops and about the best coffee I've had since I left home: so good I went back every day for more.
I've found that modern art galleries can be a bit hit or miss: sometimes, I am left cold by what I see but overall I have had enough good experiences looking at modern art that I keep at it. The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art is in almost brand new premises and I have to say my first impression was that I'd made a mistake. They had an exhibition called Europe Europe, but it looked more like an air-conditioning showroom.
It was actually a history of Samsung's air-conditioning in Europe - a pretty tenuous connection to the overall theme, I reckon. In that building, only a couple of things caught my eye: a video which I watched for five minutes while nothing moved, and another video where I couldn't follow the changes and which had really abstract captions. Oh, and some Zimbabwean currency.
I went across into the other building, and matters improved dramatically. I'd heard of Damian Hirst but didn't really know what he's about. Here is how the Astrup Fearnley describes his work:
Hirst engages simultaneously with sculpture, installation, and painting. The former two typically involve the manipulation of readymade materials, such as appropriated objects or animals, presented in altered states. .. More recently, he has developed his early medicine cabinets, which, like the spliced animals, are characterized by their cold, clinical look.
I didn't quite know what to make of it, but somehow it kept taking me back for another look. At a distance, I thought he had made them, but closer inspection revealed them to be for real.
Another work needed a fair amount of backstory before I could work out the art. It involved a 350 year old log cabin from Northern Norway: Marianne Heske took it to an exhibition in Paris in 1980, and it is now in the Astrup Fearnley, alongside a replica made from white resin. There was also a photo collection, showing it in its original site, and then packed up and on the move. Again, I found myself going back.
Best of all was Anselm Kiefer's Zweistromland. He focuses on the book, as a time capsule and repository of knowledge. His particular books preserve knowledge but also make it rather inaccessible: although they can be opened and contain stuff, each one weighs hundreds of kilograms. Being made of lead would do that.
There was even a wee bit of humour, of sorts
My second visit was to something rather different: it involved a three km walk up through very traditional housing to Frogner Park, quite a big space, set out quite formally.
The reason for visiting is that it houses a couple of hundred sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, and a small (and allegedly useless) museum in his honour.
The exhibition came about as a deal he did with the city: they wanted to demolish his studio, he wanted to move into Frogner Park - he was allowed to so long as all subsequent works were donated to the city to furnish the park. I can't help wondering if the city knew what it was in for! Although Vigeland designed the Nobel peace prize medal, his sculptures in Frogner Park apparently all "reek of Nazi mentality", which was not the first thing to come to mind when I saw them (although he was a known sympathiser during the war). There are a lot of sculptures, in three groups. Here's one, the innocuous ones:
Another group is worked in a softish looking stone - one of them has a girl sitting on it, she caught my eye as she sat very still for quite a long time, as if she were emulating the sculptures:
I'm not entirely sure what was going on for him when he did them, even less so when he did these
As an odd juxtaposition, over in one corner there is a formal bust of Lincoln - as far as I could tell, his is the only individual sculpture in the park