Art on the road

This summer’s major exhibitions in Norway’s are made in collaboration with other museums across the world.

Yayoi Kusama has flown over the Skagerrak. Nikolai Astrup is on his way from London to Høvikodden. Edvard Munch is headed for Boston in the fall in the company of Jasper Johns, while nordic japonism is touring Scandinavia. The major trend when it comes to Norwegian museum exhibition this summer is not related to styles or art forms, but the act of cooperation. As a result,  you get people queuing up for an hour or more outside the museums, which is something you rarely see in Oslo. Still, that was the case at the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter this spring. Prior to that, it was shown at  Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside Copenhagen for four months. It has now traveled to Moderna Museet in Stockholm and will then go to HAM in Helsinki.

– Kusama is the kind of exhibition where we have to collaborate with others to make it work, says Tone Hansen, director of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter.

– It requires a lot of preparation, a lot of contact with the artist and is extremely expensive to promote. Moreover, it was the wish of Kusama herself to see her art travel.

– How do you determine who get’s to show it first?

– In this case, representatives of all the four Nordic museums met with  Kusama’s gallerist in London, then Louisiana quickly took on the job of managing the project. It’s something they can do because they are ten times bigger than us.

– Are there ever conflicts around such collaboration?

– That could happen of course, especially if you work closely with an artist to produce new works. But we haven’t had any problems.

Aften, interiør,1890 av Harriet Backer, foto Nasjonalmuseet
Evening, Interior. Harriet Backer, 1890. Photo: Nasjonalmuseet, part of the exhibition Japonmania in the North.

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter is not the only Norwegian art institution that collaborates with other museums this summer. The biggest exhibition to date showing Japanese influence on Nordic art will open at the National Museum in Oslo in June and is made in cooperation with Ateneum, the Finnish National Gallery, where the exhibition was shown earlier this year. In 2017 it will travel on to Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, also a partner.

– These are our sister museums in the Nordic countries, so it’s quite natural for us to work together, which we often do, says Widar Halén, one of the curators of the exhibition at the National Museum in Oslo .

– We don’t just collaborate on exhibitions, but also research. Having access to each others collections is of course a huge advantage which allows us to make even finer exhibitions.

Hokusai Wave, 2151
Cristopher Dresser, The Great Wave, cirka 1880. From the exhibition Japanomania in the North at Nasjonalmuseet.

– Is the exhibition in Finland, Norway and Denmark exactly the same?

– No, it changes depending on which country it is shown in. In Norway, for example, we include several works of Frida Hansen and Gerhard Munthe, and a greater variety of Japanese inspired ceramics, porcelain and metalwork, which we see quite a lot of in Norway.

Munch + Johns
The influence of Edvard Munch on the American painter Jasper Johns is the theme of this summer’s exhibition at the Munch Museum. Edvard Munch, Self portrait between the Clock and the Bed and Jasper Johns, Cikada.

The Munch Museum opens it’s fifth exhibition in their Munch plus series in June. This time Munch will be paired with American artist Jasper Johns, who was greatly influenced by Munch and made reference to his art in several of his painting. The exhibition is made in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where it will show in the fall, and is sponsored by The Terra Foundation for American Art.

One characteristic of the touring exhibitions is that they are big and expensive. Kusama took up 2,000 square meters at Henie Onstad and the day I talked to Tone Hansen she clocked the number of visitors in at 90,000. This is three times the amount of visitors they usually get. The next exhibition at Henie Onstad also comes from abroad. Nikolai Astrup returns to his home country after having been a hit in London.

The Astrup exhibition at Henie Onstad will also show contemporary art, such as this video installation by Book and Hedén, who have travelled to the places where Astrup painted.

– That said, it’s not quite the same exhibition. We have much more space than the Dulwich gallery in London and have also worked to develop a contemporary art project based on Astrup thoughts about farming and gardening, says Tone Hansen.

– We do have a lot of space at Henie Onstad, so we really should work with others. We also need to work up a bit of confidence, dare to take more risks. It’s high time we got the really big shows to Norway.

Nikolai Astrup – Norwegian landscape at Henie Onstad Art Centre June 10th to September 11th. Japonism in the Nordic Countries at Nasjonalmuseet June 17th to October 16th. Johns + Munch at the Munch Museum June 18th to September 25th.

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