Military brass at Norway’s Defense Museum in Oslo didn’t want to risk offending Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana when they came to visit this week. A controversial artwork involving a giant condom was discreetly removed from outside the museum before they came to call.
The artwork had raised eyebrows among many Norwegians as well when it was erected (no pun intended) last month. Artist Morten Traavik called his production Hærwerk 1, Honest John, and created it by placing a specially made seven-meter-long condom over a rocket that was on display on the museum’s grounds.
The military had gone along with Traavik’s project, which was supposed to stand outside the museum at the Akershus Fortress for several months.
But then came word that the Russian president, his wife and a large delegation of Norwegian and Russian officials would be visiting the museum to pay tribute to veterans of World War II (photo) and the suffering endured by many Soviet prisoners of war at the time.
“We discussed whether this artwork would amount to an unnecessary provocation, and decided it could,” Lt Col Erling Kristiansen told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday.
“We wanted to avoid discussions about it, so decided to take it down on April 15, after it had been standing for a month,” Kristiansen said.
So the potentially offensive artwork was nowhere to be seen when Medvedev and his delegation arrived at the museum on Monday. Military officials had been remarkably sporty about the artwork earlier though.
“The Defense Museum wants to be an active player in the community, and give room to artists,” museum director Runar Gjerald had said in March. He claimed the museum also welcomed “dialogue, new views, commentary and debate.”