Welcome to Munchville
With fall just around the corner, Oslo, the overlooked Scandinavian capital makes for an excellent artsy weekend getaway. Enamored with the city after a 24 h visit earlier this year, C-print shares with you some of our top picks for art lovers visiting the city.
Illustrated view of the exhibition Aurdal/Mugaas at Kunstnernes Hus
Oslo is making a mark, and rightfully so. When visiting the city back in April during the weekend of Oslo Open, an initiatve which sees many of the city's art practioners opening their studios to the general public. Cushioned between fjords and woodlands, the city's transformation from a nondescript Scandinavian capital to a bustling art city was apparent. Whereas Oslo will inevitably bring to mind the likes of Edvard Munch and Gustav Vigeland, when exploring the local contemporary art scene, the offerings soon prove to extend to much more than the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.
Alex Israel's #alexIsrael at Astrup Fearnley. Photo: Christian Øen
The more evident traits of Oslo’s cultural evolution and, in a way, redefinition, are the architectural landmarks such as the building housing the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet which was designed by award-winning Norwegian firm Snøhetta and again Astrup Fearnley designed by starchitect Renzo Piano. Other noteworthy buildings include the Munch Museum as well as a new building for the National Museum which is set to open in 2017. While Oslo is currently experiencing an upsruge in terms of artist-run spaces such as SCHLOSS (Kirkegårdsgata 14), partly run by artist Ida Ekblad, the city is also home to two internationally prominent galleries; Galleri Riis and STANDARD (OSLO), both which can be credited with long-standing participation at the Basel edition of Art Basel. Riis which represents a roster of mostly Nordic artists including as well international names like Hamish Fulton and Daido Moriyama, just moved into its new premises (Arbins gate 7) after some time of running operations from a temporary site, a former bookstore. The other Norwegian powerhouse is located in the hip area of Grünerlokka (Waldemar Thranes gate 86), just a little north of the city centre. Aside from working with some of Norway's internationally most recognized contemporary artists such as Gardar Eide Einarsson, Torbjørn Rødland and Matias Faldbakken, it has since the opening in 2005 offered exhibitions by the likes of Tauba Auerbach, Simon Denny and C-print favourite Lucas Blalock to mention a few.
Installation view: Katrine Gieaver at Galleri Riis's temporary site
Within walking distance and easily missed for the unattentive, is the street sign of MELK Books (Waldemar Thranes gate 51), the recently inaugurated book shop of artist-run MELK which focuses on contemporary Scandinavian photography. The selection gracing the shelves in this pied-à-terre is limited but alluring. At the time of our visit, we were kindly offered a sneak peek of the downstairs space which then was undergoing major alterations to house the gallery's new premises which just opened last month (August). For aficionados of contemporary photography, Fotogalleriet (Mollergata 34), also equipped with a neat book section, merits a visit. Neighbouring a stone's throw away are the offices of Objektiv Journal, a biannual magazine with a curatorial approach helmed by visual artist Nina Strand. While in Oslo, be sure to pick up an issue which will serve as inspiration for days.
Lina Scheynius at MELK
Located in Grønland, an ethnically diverse downtown neighborhood, adjacent to the city terminal, one finds Oslo's most remarkable space. Artist-run 1857 (Tøyenbekken 12) is housed inside an older lumber storage with seemingly endless ceilings. Founded in 2010, the gallery which participated at the first European edition of Independent in Brussels earlier this year, has notably exhibited Jessica Warboys, Francis Alÿs, Darren Bader and Allison Katz. Another gem in the city is Kunstnernes Hus (translates: Artists' House, Wergelandsveien 17), a boxy early 1930's functionalist building overlooking the Royal Palace Park. Artist-run and devoted to both local and international contemporary art, we were lucky to catch the wonderful Aurdal/Mugaas, an extensive collaborative exhibition project between two Norwegian artists of different generations; sculptor Siri Aurdal and photographer Eline Mugaas. The exhibition, a result of Mugaas's interest in Aurdal's work which she has been documenting for years, seamlesssly merged works by the two and counts for one of the most memorable art experiences of the year so far.
Installation view of the exhibition Aurdal/Mugaas at Kunstnernes Hus
Once you're done artseeing around the city, Toggatan Botaniske (Torggata 17B), makes for an excellent setting for evening drinks and people (and plant) spotting. With some additional time in hand, taking a long stroll on the vast grounds of the Ekeberg sculpture park, located in the outskirts of Oslo makes for the ultimate sculptural treasure trail. Open all year round with free admission, visitors will be pleased to stumble across contemporary heavyhitters like Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois and Tony Cragg alongside Rodin. Notably Abramovic presents a clever nod to Munch's "The Scream" which was inpired by the park, urging Norwegians to break out of their much characteristic composure.
We asked Christian Tunge, Oslo-based artist, founder of HEAVY Books and project coordinator at MELK to share with us some words on the local art scene:
The word “vibrant” is a bit of a cliché, but for the art scene in Oslo I think it fits well. Galleries and project spaces are popping up and closing down constantly. In the past years a lot of commercial galleries have been closing, while a lot of artist run spaces have opened up. One of the more exciting ones is Noplace, located in Gamlebyen on the east side of the city centre. We (MELK) recently opened our new space on Waldemar Thranes gate. The street also houses three other galleries: Rod Bianco, STANDARD (Oslo) and Diorama. I would also recommend a visit to OSL contemporary which represents a good mix of
emerging and established artists.
Christian Tunge at MELK Books. Photo: Corina Wahlin
Many many thanks to our graphic designer Pär Lindström for the illustrations accompanying this feature.