Olsen heir plans new Munch gallery

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Norwegian philanthropist Petter Olsen, who inherited part of a shipping fortune along with a vast collection of paintings by Edvard Munch, seems keen to share his valuable collection with the public. He plans to open a private Munch gallery on his rural estate south of Oslo.

Petter Olsen's rural estate, Ramme Gaard in Hvitsten, will soon feature a gallery with his unique and valuable collection of paintings by famed Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. PHOTO: Rammegaard.no

Newspaper Østlandets Blad reported last week that Olsen has won approval from local planning officials to build the gallery on his estate called Ramme Gaard in Hvitsten, Akershus County. Olsen opened the estate itself to the public several years ago, and it’s become a popular location for ecological and cultural events including concerts and annual productions by the British Shakespeare Company, which Olsen has supported.

Now he intends to exhibit the collection of Munch paintings he inherited from his parents, including one of the original versions of Munch’s famous painting Skriket (“The Scream”). He’ll get no public funding for the project, only permission to move forward with his plans, but the billionaire heir said he’s “very happy” about that. “It will allow possibilities for Vestby (the local township) to become a ‘Munch municipality,” Olsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He hopes the gallery will be ready by the end of next year, when Munch would have celebrated his 150th birthday. The artist died in Oslo in 1944.

Olsen is the younger brother of shipping magnate Fred Olsen, who also has vast interests in real estate and the Timex watch company in the US. The two brothers have had multiple quarrels in court, mostly over their inheritance and influence in the family businesses, and even over the Munch collection itself. While Fred wound up with most of the control over the business aspects of the Olsen empire, Petter, 19 years younger than Fred, won control over the art.

They recently agreed, however, to jointly challenge Norwegian tax authorities’ claims that they must pay both income and fortune tax on a trust set up by the family in Liechtenstein. The trust legally owns billions worth of assets, with family members as beneficiaries, but they claim they should only be taxed when they actually withdraw funds or assets from the trust. The case is due to be argued in court in Oslo this autumn.

Nearly half-a-million people, meanwhile, visited the Edvard Munch exhibit that recently closed at the Pompidou Center in Paris. The exhibit is now moving on to Frankfurt, where it’s due to open next week, and then to the Tate Modern in London, where it will run from June 28 o October 12.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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