Oslo’s popular Munch Museum managed to stay open this week, but has had to remove some of its most famous paintings and close off a main exhibition hall. The reason: Condensation that can damage its precious works by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.
Many visitors to the museum last weekend were disappointed when they didn’t get to see, for example, Munch’s famed painting Skrik (Scream) or several others. On Friday, the very day hundreds of foreign visitors were in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, museum staff had to “evacuate” 24 paintings including Skrik and Madonna to protect them from moisture damage.
The problem stems from a faulty heating and ventilation system combined with unusually cold temperatures outdoors. Cold and moist air was entering the museum through defective vents, creating condensation when it met warm air inside.
Museum director Stein Olav Christensen told newspaper Dagsavisen earlier this week that he couldn’t risk some of Norway’s most valuable art by keeping the main exhibition room open and the paintings on the walls.
“We also have a problem with air quality within the room, which means we haven’t been able to keep temperatures up high enough,” Christensen said.
It remains unclear how long the paintings will be kept in protective storage, pending maintenance work, and Christensen apologized for the inconvenience. “We realize that some people have traveled far to come to see Munch’s art,” he told Dagsavisen.
The entire museum at Tøyen will be closed from January 10 through 20 and from April 46 through May 5 because of exhibition changes. The café and museum store will remain open.
Another version of Skrik also remains on display at the National Gallery downtown, along with several other Munch paintings. Plans remain for a new Munch Museum to be built on the waterfront at Bjørvika, near Oslo’s Opera House.