New Munch Museum loses support

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Oslo’s conservative city government coalition was split after one of its members, the Progress Party, backed out of an earlier political agreement to support construction of a new Munch Museum at Bjørvika in Oslo. The new museum was initially proposed to house the collections of the existing Munch and Stenersen museums.

The Oslo chapter of the Progress Party has decided it doesn't want to build this proposal for a new Munch Museum next to the Opera House. That means the project lost support from a political majority within Oslo's city government. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: MIR/Herreros Arquitectos/Oslo kommune

The decision at an extraordinary meeting of the local chapter of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) halts progress on plans by the city government (bystyret) to consolidate the Munch and Stenersen collections and move the Munch Museum from its currently cramped and outdated quarters in Oslo’s Tøyen district. It means there no longer is a political majority within the city to build the new museum next to the Opera House on the waterfront at Bjørvika.

For the past several years, the plan has been to move the Munch and Stenersen museums to a new, high-rise building at Bjørvika called Lambda. The building’s design, however, has been controversial since it was first proposed and also after it won an architecural competition. Now the Progress Party believes it’s simply too expensive as well.

“There has been growing opposition within Frp to the new building,” Christian Tybring-Gjedde, leader of Oslo Frp, told newspaper Aftenposten. “We don’t think (the design) is suited for Munch or for Bjørvika.” He also thinks its construction would cost up to NOK 4 billion.

The existing Munch Museum at Tøyen. PHOTO: Views and News

He and other party colleagues have proposed moving the Munch Museum into the historic National Gallery downtown, which is due to be vacated in a move to another new building behind the Nobel Peace Center at Vika. “We already have the National Gallery, a large building which was built for art from (Munch’s) time, and which (state historic preservation agency) Riksantikvaren believes should be preserved,” Tybring-Gjedde said. “Even if we renovate the National Gallery and add on to it, we can save at least NOK 2 billion of Oslo’s scarce resources.”

The Labour Party, meanwhile, wants to keep the Munch Museum at Tøyen and build new facilities for it there. Alternative locations have been proposed as well.

Oslo Frp’s decision on Monday not only sparked criticism from Frp’s political partners in the city government but disagreement from the party’s own representative, Svenn Kristiansen, as well. He criticized the way the issue had been handled, but conceded that he and party colleagues must follow their party’s board decision.

Members of the Conservative Party, which shares city government power with Frp, accused Frp of breaking its agreement as did representatives for the Liberal Party (Venstre), who claimed Frp’s action proved “it can’t be relied upon.”

With municipal elections set for September 12, Kristiansen has said the newly elected city government should make the decision on a new Munch Museum. Staff at the existing museum continues to make the best out of its current quarters and just opened a new exhibition of Munch’s work leading up to his murals inside the University of Oslo’s Aula. The museum has also launched a new cooperation with the university on research into Munch’s life and art.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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