New sculpture berths off Opera

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Oslo’s still-new Opera House has acquired more artistic company, two years after it opened. A permanent sculpture, created by an Italian artist and financed by a Norwegian businessman, berthed off the Opera House this week, with Queen Sonja on hand for its handover.

Artist Monica Bonvicini and benefactor Christen Sveaas, and their joint project "She Lies" in the water to the left. PHOTO: Views and News

The sculpture, called She Lies, seems to float on the waters of the Oslo Fjord but actually stands on a concrete platform and can turn on its own axis, moved by the winds and the tides. That’s in line with its dedication to change, as its creator Monica Bonvicini sought to create a public artwork in an urban redevelopment area of Oslo that’s changing all the time.

Queen Sonja sounded the gong that marked deliverance of the Opera House's new offshore sculpture. At right, art committee chairman Leif Terje Løddesøl. PHOTO: Views and News

Bonvicini won an international competition to create an offshore sculpture meant to enhance the Opera House. It’s become an instant landmark, with people streaming to the waterfront to see it since it was towed up from where it was assembled in Horten late last week.

The new offshore sculpture, seen from inside the Opera House. PHOTO: Views and News

Queen Sonja was supposed to formally unveil the sculpture at a festive ceremony on Tuesday, “but the forces of nature” changed those plans, noted the chairman of the Opera’s art committee, Leif Terje Løddesøl. Strong winds over the weekend made it impossible to keep the sculpture wrapped up, so Norwegians got a sneak peek long before the ceremony began.

Oslo's Opera House, with its new floating sculpture at right. PHOTO: Views and News

Made of acid-resistant steel and glass panels, the central motif of the sculpture is a massive accumulation of ice, which the artist sees as a symbol of power and majesty. Bonvicini, chewing gum through the ceremony as she stood next to Queen Sonja, later said she wanted her work to also be a monument to change and the renewal underway along Oslo’s eastern waterfront.

Its pieces of steel and glass were assembled at SIAS AS in Horten after businessman Christen Sveaas came up with funding. Løddesøl confirmed on Tuesday that Sveaas, who just opened his Kistefos Museum for the season on Sunday, offered NOK 8 million to guarantee the project’s completion. “We wouldn’t have managed to do this without his support,” Løddesøl said.

Gro Kraft, director of the Norwegian public art agency KORO, was also full of thanks to Sveaas, for his “magnificent donation.” She said she hopes his sponsorship will “serve as an inspiration to others.”

It seemed as many visitors were taking photos of the sculpture over the weekend as of the Opera House. Public reaction was generally favourable. “It’s special, the kind of thing you take pictures of,” Linh Nguyen of Vietnam, who’s studying opera in the Netherlands, told newspaper Aftenposten. “The Opera House is fantastic. So is this new sculpture.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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