MUSEUM GUIDE: Tucked away on the south side of Oslo’s famed Frogner Park is a large historic building that in many ways made the park itself possible. The Vigeland Museum, named for the artist behind the park’s enormous collection of sculptures, is where Gustav Vigeland lived and worked for nearly two decades. It reopened earlier this year and a visit can make a tour of the park much more meaningful.
There actually are two historic homes and museums on the park’s south side, both of which led to creation of the park, and this guide already has visited the Oslo City Museum (Bymuseet) and Frogner Hovedgård. Now visitors are welcome once again at the Vigeland Museum across the street, after a major if somewhat unnoticeable renovation. It included installation of a new roof and restoration of plumbing and electrical systems that mostly dated back to the building’s construction in the early 1920s. The need for basic refurbishment was acute.
“Sometimes we had to have buckets standing on the floors of the exhibition rooms, because the roof was leaking,” museum conservator Guri Skuggen told newspaper Aftenposten earlier this year. Now the roof’s new copper gleams in the late autumn sunshine, and the exhibition areas are shined up as well, without any jarring, major changes.
“We actually tried to make the changes as unnoticeable as possible,” Skuggen said. That’s in part because the building itself is in the process of becoming fredet (preserved and protected), so major change was decidedly not on the agenda. The priority was instead to keep the building and its inventory, considered a prime example of Norwegian neo-classicism from the 1920s, as intact as possible.
It was built to be a new studio and home for Gustav Vigeland, who already had a contract to create the fountain that’s a highlight of the Vigeland Park within the Frogner Park. Vigeland, whose production was enormous, had outgrown another city-owned property where he’d been living and working. The city offered him new accommodation and reimbursement for all his materials, and Vigeland moved into his large new quarters in 1924, next to the site of the sculpture park that kept growing in size and scope.
On Sunday, museum officials hosted they called a “great activity day,” opening up Vigeland’s living quarters as well as exhibition rooms and even a place where children could make Christmas cards and ornaments. The residential portion is otherwise only open by special appointment. More about it in a later story, with photos.
The museum itself, with its permanent collections and changing exhibitions, documents Vigeland’s life and work processes and offers insight into the enormity of his project. Plaster models of his famous statues also place them in a whole new light, allowing closer inspection especially of Vigeland’s famous Monolith, arguably the highlight of the Frogner Park. It was carved from one single piece of granite (hence its name) and contains 120 figures, created over a 14-year period from 1929 to 1944. Vigeland, who died in 1943, didn’t live to see its completion.
His models for it, divided into three separate plaster entities inside the museum, offer a different perspective on the Monolith and allow closer inspection at eye-level without having to battle the elements of bad weather or glaring sunshine. While it’s great to see the Monolith outdoors in the park, a look at its models inside the museum is highly recommended. Printed brochures in both Norwegian and English also explain how the massive sculpture was made.
Models of many of the granite groups placed around the Monolith are also on exhibit, along with the model of the fountain and many other works in the park, including his bronze, marble and wrought iron statues, fences, gates and light fixtures.
The museum also contains many works not connected to the park, including sculptures of famous and not-so-famous Norwegians of his time, from his housemaid to Frithjof Nansen. Vigeland also made woodcuts and drawings.
A special exhibit featuring the works of 29 scuptors is also running at the museum through February 5. It’s a cooperation between Norway’s national scultors’ association (Norsk Billedhoggerforening) and the museum, and aims to portray various industrial and artistic processes.
In the summer the museum hosts classical concerts in its large atrium. At this time of year, it provides an excellent way to explore the life and work of one of Norway’s most famous artists, while staying warm and dry.
The Vigeland Museum
http://www.vigeland.museum.no/en (external link)
Open: September 1 – May 31: Tuesday through Sunday noon to 4pm . June 1 – August 31: Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 5pm (Closed Mondays)
Location: Nobels Gate 32 at Halvdan Svartes Gate, adjacent to the Frogner/Vigeland Park. Take the Nr. 20 bus or tram to Frogner Plass. The Metro (T-bane) connects to both at the Majorstua station.
ALSO IN OUR MUSEUM GUIDE:
National Museum – Architecture
Historical Museum (Historisk museum)
The Norwegian Museum of Science, Technology, Industry and Medicine (Norsk Teknisk Museum)
Ski Museum at Holmenkollen
Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities (HL-senteret)
Nobel Peace Center
Oslo Jewish Museum (Jødisk Museum i Oslo)
Oslo City Museum (Bymuseet)
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Ibsen Museum
The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet)
The National Gallery
Norsk Folkemuseum (The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)
The Viking Ship Museum
Summertime at The Munch Museum
The Natural History Museum – Botanical Gardens
The National Museum – Architecture
The Kon-Tiki Museum
The Maritime Museum
The Polar Ship Fram Museum
“Be a tourist in your own town”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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