A Travellerspoint blog

Norway

Art in Oslo - Some a Little Disturbing

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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.
Aker Brygge, Oslo

Aker Brygge, Oslo

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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.
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

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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.
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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.
Damien Hirst work

Damien Hirst work

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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.
Marianne Heske - Retour

Marianne Heske - Retour

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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.
Anselm Kiefer - Zweistromland

Anselm Kiefer - Zweistromland

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There was even a wee bit of humour, of sorts
large_IMG_9976.jpglarge_IMG_9977.jpgJeff Koons - St Benedict

Jeff Koons - St Benedict


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.
Frogner Park

Frogner Park

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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.
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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:
Vigelend Sculpture Park

Vigelend Sculpture Park

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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:
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I'm not entirely sure what was going on for him when he did them, even less so when he did these
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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
Lincoln

Lincoln

Posted by NZBarry 16:24 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Oslo

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Oslo surprised me in three ways. It was daylight for a lot longer than I had expected, with twilight starting at about 2:30 in the afternoon. It was warmer than I'd expected - while the temperature was stuck at around zero for the few days I was there, it was not unpleasant - I even spent a few minutes outside in jandals and t-shirt one evening. It was also a lot smaller than I expected - it has a big harbour, with the old castle at its head: the CBD occupies just a few blocks behind it. Of course, the city itself sprawls on, but whichever direction I walked in, it didn't take long before the buildings were predominantly residential, although most had small shops, cafes or bars at street level. The buildings have a formal, semi-classical beauty to them.
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One thing that didn't surprise me was the cost: I knew it would be horrendous - $8 coffees (and not that great), $11 standard beers, meals too scary to even think about. My first night in town, the prices at the pubs I saw had me scuttling in to the local equivalent of McDonalds for a happy meal. Wasn't bad, actually. My one posh dinner was my last night - I'd been so frugal that I was left with a pocketful of krones I had to spend, so I went into an Eataly for pasta and beer - hardly haute cuisine. Luckily my hostel provided a great breakfast as part of the deal, so I'd start out with a pile of toast, cheese and various meats in open sandwiches, oranges, watermelon and it would see me through to dinner. One consequence is that I never experienced an authentic Norwegian dinner. The hostel was pretty good, large and semi-deserted: I had the dorm to myself for a couple of the nights I was there. Even so, one evening I managed to get stuck in a corner with a weird and really boring Australian who I just could not shake off for about half an hour, no matter how pointedly I might address myself to my laptop.

My hostel was about 100 metres or less from the Akershus Castle, which has been there since 1299, when a local nobleman started attacking Oslo, although it was more commonly attacked by the Swedes. The only time the Norwegians have lost possession was during World War II, when the Norwegians evacuated Oslo. Unlike most castles, the grounds are open to the public to go in and wander around without fee - when I did so, it seemed to make the various castles I was reading about in the second Game of Thrones book more real.
Akershus Castle

Akershus Castle


Akershus Castle Entry

Akershus Castle Entry

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As I exercised my right as a member of the public to wander around Akershus Castle, I was quite surprised at how spacious and pleasant the grounds were, but then I suppose the entire populace might find itself cooped up in here in a time of siege. Although not much happens there now - some state visits and the like, a guard is maintained.
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The Norwegian Parliament (the Stortinget) is right in the middle of the city - you go up Karl Johans Gate past some shops, hotels, the National Theatre (which had a very formal looking cafe next door) and find yourself at the Royal Palace.
Norwegian Parliament

Norwegian Parliament

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National Theatre, Oslo

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Palace, Oslo


On the way is some of the campus of the University of Oslo - humanities and law are here, and a seperate building for the law library. I went in and did some work there, but it had an odd feature - they paid no attention to my going in, I could connect to the internet and pluck books from the shelves at will but when it came time to use the toilet, then I needed a security card. Nature being what it is, my time in the building was somewhat limited. I was far happier in the State library of Norway - the outside of the building was a bit grim and not much to look at, and the inside didn't have a lot going on either, but it was a good space to work in, the toilets were not behind a security door and there were a couple of decent cafes just up the street (one refused to accept cash for my coffee! card only).
University of Oslo

University of Oslo

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Law Library, Oslo University

Law Library, Oslo University

State Library of Norway

State Library of Norway

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On the way up, I enjoyed walking past the City Hall, which had a line of sculptures outside of men (I don.t recall any women) pursuing a variety of trades and vocations, then I'd come across Alfred Nobel and the Norwegian branch of his institute. There were a couple of signs which struck my eye - kiwi is not a Norwegian word, yet it is the brand name for a chain of convenience stores - and then there is the delightful sign I saw for a fitness place.
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Nobel

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Next post - a couple of art institutions I enjoyed in Oslo - one is sort of R18, although it is very public.

Posted by NZBarry 17:37 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

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