Angst Over New Location for Munch Museum Makes Norwegians Want to Scream

Angst Over New Location for Munch Museum Makes Norwegians Want to Scream

A design was selected in 2009 for the Munch Museum's new home on the Oslo waterfront, but, after ongoing concerns about its size and scale, local politicians have now scrapped the project. A variety of alternative options are being advocated, but it's still unclear what shape or location a new Munch Museum will finally have.

In the early 2000s, Oslo's Bjørvika waterfront area was rethought as a cultural hub: the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet moved into a sleek new building there in 2008, and a new home for the Munch Museum — which originally opened in Oslo's Tøyen neighborhood in 1963 — was planned for 2014. Back in 2009, the Art Newspaper reported that the proposal to add a glassy high-rise building for the new institution, designed by Spanish architecture firm Herreros Arquitectos, was not welcomed by National Opera and Ballet director Tom Remlov. Cultural institutions usually feel that there is strength in numbers (as evidenced by American cultural hubs such as Lincoln Center or L.A.'s downtown arts district), but, somewhat surprisingly, Remlov feared that the potential neighbor would unfairly dominate the area due to its height.

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Now plans for the museum have come under renewed attack from cultural heritage director Jørn Holme, who objects that the structure would block scenic views of medieval church foundations and eliminate green space, Views and News from Norway reports. Holme asked for new designs that would move the building back from the shoreline, but local Labor politician Jan Bøhler supports a different solution entirely: building a brand-new museum on the existing Tøyen site, which, he told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, would be "better and cheaper." He claims that the Tøyen project would cost $90 to $180 million less to build, since local authorities already own the land and the waterfront site would require deep pilings to anchor its foundations. The Oslo Labor party intends to make this proposal part of their platform for the September elections.

Meanwhile, Kristian Nordberg, an 83-year-old art lover and engineer, has suggested an independent plan to turn Munch's studio on Oslo's west side into a museum, according to another News and Views from Norway piece. The artist worked in the Art Deco building, which dates from 1923, up until his death in 1944, and it remains unchanged today. Nordberg would like to display the studio as it looked when Munch worked there and open a gift shop. He told Aftenposten that Oslo mayor Fabian Stang and cultural heritage director Jørn Holme were enthusiastic about the idea, but that the necessary funds still had to be raised. "Norway has not been very generous to Munch," Nordberg told Aftenposten. "It's absurd to see how the local authorities in Oslo have used Edvard Munch's estate." He added that the city tore down Munch's chalet-style house in the 1950s.

The Munch Museum has the largest collection of the artist's work in the world, which he willed to Oslo upon his death. Two of his most famous works, "The Scream" and "Madonna" were stolen from the Munch Museum in 2004 but recovered by Norwegian police two years later.

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