Øystein Stray Spetalen has grabbed headlines for years in Norway in connection with major investments, high-profile business deals and highly public quarrels with neighbours, politicians, managers and the media. Now he’s working on an unusual new museum project that’s not without controversy either.
Norwegian business magazine Kapital reported recently that Spetalen, age 51, plans to build an anti-socialist museum on the Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo, home to many other museums including those displaying Norway’s famous Viking ships and Thor Heyerdahl’s raft Kon-Tiki.
Spetalen’s museum will reportedly feature a “horror chamber” dedicated to such figures as Adolph Hitler, Leonid Bresjnev, Heinrich Himmler and the lesser-known late Norwegian politician Finn Gustavsen, who was the first Member of Parliament from the Socialist Peoples Party (SF) that later became the current Socialist Left party (SV).
Gustavsen also led an alliance between SF and Norway’s Communist Party (NKP) in the 1970s, and that’s what Spetalen believes warrants him a spot in his anti-socialist museum. “Gustavsen and his faithful party comrades openly supported the Soviet Union and Bresjnev,” Spetalen wrote in an e-mail to newspaper Dagbladet. “If the western European countries had only had politicians like Gustavsen, the liberation of 300 million people from the terror of the Soviet Union would never have happened.”
The mail was sent in response to vehement protests over Spetalen’s museum project from Gustavsen’s granddaughter, Margrethe Gustavsen, who deeply dislikes the billionaire’s plans to include a wax model of her grandfather in what Kapital called his “chamber of horrors.” She claims that Spetalen is misinterpreting history.
“At first, I just scoffed at his museum plans, and thought he’d gone off the deep end,” Margrethe Gustavsen told Dagbladet. “It’s difficult to take such opinions seriously. But now I realize that this can become a reality, and that my grandfather can be displayed with that gang of people. Then it’s much more uncomfortable.”
She said her family intended to contact Spetalen and give him the message that her grandfather was “a politician who didn’t like dictatorships. Spetalen can’t have studied what kind of man my grandfather was.”
Spetalen seemed to have no intention of dropping his plans. “It would be a misinterpretation of history not to include Gustavsen in the museum,” Spetalen wrote to Dagbladet. But he won’t be placed next to Hitler, Spetalen conceded. The museum is to be housed in a building on a roughly four-acre lot that Spetalen bought from the Norwegian Maritime Museum in 2004.