For an overview of the future of the art world, ARTnews dedicated part of the June-July 2021 issue of the magazine to 10 cities for viewing: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Vancouver, Guadalajara, BogotÃ¡, Oslo, Tallinn, Casablanca, Abu Dhabi and Taipei. Stay tuned as each city digs in online for related reports from Seoul and Paris in the coming weeks.
Long considered a travel destination for artists thanks to relatively cheap real estate and robust national art funding, Oslo has now established itself as the leading arts center in Scandinavia, which is likely to rise even further after the opening of two major museum expansions on the horizon. The city is also home to enriching activities outside the walls of institutions as more and more young artists are drawn to the promise of alternative spaces and new ways to show their work to audiences near and far.
The March of the Growing Museums Museum
Two museums in Norway’s capital – that Munch Museum and the National Museum– are about to complete the massive expansion efforts that will make them grow in size and scope. Much is at stake: if the leading institutions manage to attract more Norwegians and visitors from afar, the growth could help move Oslo’s art scene into the ranks of London, Paris and Berlin as one of Europe’s great art capitals.
With a previously delayed opening, which is now planned for the fall, the new $ 314 million building of the Munch Museum will be located slightly above the port of Oslo and will accommodate more than 283,000 square meters on 13 floors, making it one of the world’s largest museums make that a single artist. Meanwhile, the National Museum is well on its way to adding more than 107,000 square feet through a glitzy expansion that’s expected to open in 2022.
All excited eyes will be on the Munch Museum in the near future – home to a version of The Scream and many of Edvard Munch’s most famous works, moving from a sleepy neighborhood on the outskirts of Oslo to the heart of the city. (The reopening is particularly anticipated as the popular museum has been closed since early 2019.) According to Stein Olav Henrichsen, museum director since 2010, the move represents a growing sense of partnership between institutions like the National Museum and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art private company run by Norway’s most famous collector. âThe greatest museums, the greatest builders – we are all here to develop this part of the worldthe city very systematically, where the focus is on culture, âsaid Henrichsen.
Setting a new standard
When it comes to expanding the Oslo market, which focuses on relatively few galleries and a small but growing group of collectors, one company has been leading the way: Standard (Oslo). Since its inception in 2005, the gallery has been known for the steel, highly polished aesthetic of its international artists, including stars like Tauba Auerbach, Ian Cheng, Alex Hubbard, and Josh Smith. But Standard (Oslo) is also important to support the growth of Norwegian artists. Shortly before he represented Norway at the Venice Biennale in 2005, Matias Faldbakken received one of his first solo exhibitions in the gallery. TorbjÃ¸rn RÃ¸dland, a creator of elegant photographs that resemble fashion ads with a surrealistic twist, has exploded to international fame, and Kim HiorthÃ¸y, Known in Oslo’s much-lauded electronic music scene, a number of solo exhibitions have created a fan base in the art world.
As the host of such artists, Standard (Oslo) has also helped provide emerging artists with a vision of what it might look like to be a success. “For many years there was this brain drain where people thought they had to move to Berlin,” said gallery founder Eivind Furnesvik. “But now artists stay here.”
The potential pool of local collectors has also evolved. âWe never started the gallery with the idea that there would be a collector’s base here,â said Furnesvik. In 2005, Norwegian buyers made up just 5 percent of the gallery’s sales – up to 30 percent in 2020. According to Furnesvik, increasing interest from local collectors will help support emerging artists along the way. And newer galleries have worked to expand the reach of the market, with Galleri Golsa and OSL Contemporary next to Standard (Oslo) to be seen at smaller trade fairs. Furnesvik described a still growing dynamic: “Slowly but surely,” he said, “younger art dealers are being re-established.”
The Biennale Circuit – at home and abroad
In 2019, Oslo got its own unorthodox kind of biennale in the form of osloBIENNALS, a large outdoor festival dedicated to art in public space and intended to develop âwith different temporalities, rhythms and durationsâ. Of the 30 artists included in the first edition, around a third came from Norway. Unlike the Venice Biennale, which sees the whole world as its target audience, osloBIENNALEN is primarily aimed at the citizens of Norway. “It’s a way to ensure interaction with the community and it becomes a more interesting dialogue,” said Ole G. Slyngstadli, Executive Director of osloBIENNALEN. The list of artists in the first edition included 10 Norwegians – “and there are 1,500 registered artists in Oslo,” Slyngstadli noted. “The 1,490 others were a bit disappointed.”
Although the osloBIENNALS was designed as a program that runs over a five-year cycle, with the first going through 2024, the pandemic has canceled it and marked the end of 2021. Plans have yet to be made for the next one, but Slyngstadli said he was hopeful for the future of a company that got a lot of attention the first time around.
The osloBIENNALEN partly takes on the dynamics of the Venice Biennale, where the Nordic pavilion has set new limits in recent years. At the next edition in Venice in 2022, the Nordic offering will be renamed the Sami Pavilion and will feature three artists of Sami descent – Pauliina Feodoroff, MÃ¡ret Ãnne Sara and Anders Sunna – as a significant recognition of the indigenous Sami population in Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. “This will be a historic event as the Nordic Pavilion has never presented the work of Sami artists or recognized them as a nation,” said Katya GarcÃa-AntÃ³n, director of the Contemporary Art Bureau Norway, the Oslo-based company that has commissioned the Nordic Pavilion since 2003. The aim is to draw attention to an aspect of local culture that is less known around the world, said GarcÃa-AntÃ³n, and the Nordic region as a “vibrant scene it is today.”
Commitment to the community
When the artist-run space Podium Founded in 2004, the art exhibited was often subordinate to the festivities there. âRooms run by artists were kind of a child
Community focused on getting together – drinking alcohol, having a party, hanging out, âsaid Ayatgali Tuleubek, who leads the podium with Ragnhild AamÃ¥s, Lesia Vasylchenko and Ignas KrungleviÄius. “The openings would last until morning.”
Since then, spaces like Podium have professionalized, Tuleubek said, but the goal has remained the same: to give artists a chance to be successful in a system that can be prohibitive to those who want to gain a foothold. “There is still a gap between the academy and the established institutions,” said Vasylchenko. “There aren’t that many places to exhibit your work when you’re a young or emerging artist.”
With support from Arts Council Norway and other publicly funded organizations, artist-run spaces have served as incubators. Sandra Mujinga, Pakui Hardware, and Emilija Skarnulyt, all of which have appeared at major international biennials in recent years, had some of their first shows on the podium. And more and more attention is paid to other such spaces. “Institutions get it because they want to help us move forward,” said Mechu Rapela, CEO of Tent house, a non-profit collective and exhibition space founded in 2009 that focuses less on physical art exhibitions than on research-oriented initiatives that involve artists. (Tuleubek and Vasylchenko recently attended.)
As Oslo continues to develop, such spaces will continue in the hope of elevating artists above all else. Ebba Moi, a founding member of Tenthaus, said, “It’s a really great way to network when you’re new.”
A version of this article will appear in the June / July 2021 issue of ARTnews, under the title “The Scandinavian sweet spot: Oslo. “