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The new Munch Museum on Oslo’s waterfront opens its doors to the public tomorrow spreading over 13 floors and housing more than 26,000 works bequeathed to the city by Norway’s most important artist, Edvard Munch.
When the original Munchmuseet opened its doors in May 1963, 100 years after Munch’s birth, it met almost rapturous acclaim. However, it soon became clear that the building was inadequate for the ambitions of the institution and for its popularity.
An armed robbery in 2004 where a version of The Scream, Munch’s most famous creations, and Madonna were stolen was a turning point for the old museum and although security measures were beefed up plans began to rehouse the collection in a new museum.
The artworks were recovered in 2006 and ten years later the foundation stone for the new museum was laid after a long and heated debate on both design and location – similar to the one that had preceded but only half the duration.
With a better understanding of what the modern day museum building should aspire to be, Estudio Herreros designed a tower-shaped museum – that has a ‘technical lifetime’ of 200 years – where the main functions are organised vertically.
This would mean that it would not eat into the neighbourhoods surrounding it and also be able to offer ample exhibition space for Munch’s large collection and those of temporary Norwegian and international exhibitions as well as spaces for events, relaxation, viewing galleries of the city and eating.
It is now one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist with 11 new exhibition halls (making it five times the size of the original building), allowing visitors to experience the full range of Edvard Munch’s work
These new galleries have space for large-scale murals such as The Sun, completed in 1909, which stretches nearly 8m and several versions of the iconic painting, The Scream including an early study in pastel from 1893 and a later painted version from 1910.
Community, education and flexible spaces are included as well as an outdoor terrace that allows visitors to take in the landscape and the cityscape beyond, and a restaurant and viewing gallery located on the 13th floor.
“The building is part of a generation of new museums all over the world that are redefining cultural institutions, and that are moving forward from the concept of an historical archive to become venues for social gatherings – places where everyone can meet up and discover something new,” says architect, Juan Herreros.
Munch is a prestigious project for the City of Oslo and has been planned in accordance with the FutureBuilt criteria. Such buildings must at least halve their greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional modern buildings in relation to transport, energy consumption and choice of materials.
At 60m the Munch has been built using low-carbon concrete and recycled steel, and its loadbearing structure has been designed with a technical lifetime of 200 years. It is clad in recycled, perforated aluminium panels of varying degrees of translucency, and with its distinctively leaning top section, the tower is a highly visible landmark from all sides.
“The large number of gallery spaces distributed over an even larger number of storeys allows for wide variations in ceiling heights and room sizes, enabling optimum spaces to be allocated for both permanent and temporary exhibitions,” says Herreros.
“It was our intention that visitors should discover not only the artworks, but also Oslo and its history. In this way, the building will contribute to establishing strong links between the regeneration of the surrounding urban area and Edvard Munch’s art.”
The architects intend Munch to be a non-intimidating building, unlike some traditional art museums it is easily entered from the surrounding streets in Bjørvika.
The staff areas are also discreetly visible to museum visitors, in accordance with the architects’ objective of making visible the large group of dedicated professionals who work to conserve and display the art to its best advantage.
“The new museum is fantastic with both our own collections as well as international exhibitions of world format. It is a fully accessible, vibrant venue, offering a wide-ranging programme of events and experiences for visitors of all ages with enhanced studio spaces,” says Stein Olav Henriksen, director at
“Research and conservation facilities are accessible to the public, allowing visitors insight into the ongoing work taking place to preserve and celebrate Edvard Munch’s legacy. The programme of events includes concerts, literature readings, performance and art workshops, integrating the museum within the new cultural district of Bjørvika. Visitors can also enjoy a meal in the 13th floor restaurant with views overlooking the city and Fjord.”
The new museum will trace the artist’s profound influence both on modern art and on artists through to the present day. Alongside displays of iconic artworks from the renowned permanent collection, temporary exhibitions will show Edvard Munch’s lasting influence in his own contemporary society, as well as on today’s generation of artists.
Visitors will experience the highlights of Edvard Munch’s oeuvre, in parallel with a wide-ranging programme of cultural events and experiences for visitors of all ages.
As well as the Munch collection the museum also manages collections donated by Rolf Stenersen, Amaldus Nielsen and Ludvig Ravensberg.
Among the six opening exhibitions is Edvard Munch Stenersen where visitors can experience Munch’s art alongside works by other major Nordic artists who were his contemporaries, and discover how he has influenced subsequent art history.
In a similar vain, Tracey Emin, one of the UK’s most celebrated and controversial artists, to exhibit over two floors in her first major Nordic exhibition. Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch the Loneliness of the Soul is her first major Nordic exhibition and shows how Edvard Munch has influenced and shaped her work over several decades.
Munch’s collection, the core of which Edvard Munch donated to the city of Oslo upon his death, includes over half of Munch’s known works, including over 26,700 paintings, prints, photographs, drawings and watercolours by the artist, ranging from 1873 to 1944.
While Munch is best-known for The Scream,he also experimented with various media and techniques at the edge of modernism. In addition to the paintings, watercolours and woodblock prints for which he is best known, Munch bought a Kodak camera in 1902 and is recognised today as one of the first artists to experiment with self-portrait photography.
The museum’s collection also includes thousands of other items included in Edvard Munch’s original bequest to the city such as his printing plates and lithographic stones as well as thousands of letters and approximately 10,000 objects from his own personal belongings.
A sold out street party on Friday 22 October outside the museum will act as the official opening.
Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.
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