Royalty was adding to the hyperbole swirling around the Munch Museum in Oslo, as another new exhibit pairs the works of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch with other masters. This time its none other than Vincent van Gogh, and the opening this weekend is drawing the current and former queens of the artists’ homelands.
“It is quite an event when Van Gogh comes to Norway,” said the cultural commentator for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), Agnes Moxnes. “This is a prestigious exhibition that’s confirmed by the fact that former Queen (now Princess) Beatrix (of the Netherlands) and Queen Sonja (of Norway) will be at the opening on Saturday. It’s a feather in the cap for the museum.”
The long-troubled museum that’s run by the City of Oslo, after it inherited Munch’s own large collection of his art following his death in 1944, has been on a definitive upswing lately. Recent exhibits celebrating the 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth were a major success and the museum also got the news that city officials at long last will build a new and much larger facility to house and exhibit Munch’s art. The existing museum in Oslo’s Tøyen district was arguably too small from the day it opened, nearly 20 years after receiving Munch’s art, and maintenance was neglected for years, until Japanese investors contributed funding in the 1980s. Idemitsu remains a major contributor.
Now museum officials have embarked on a series of exhibits pairing Munch’s art with that of others, both from Munch’s time and contemporary. An exhibit this past winter called Melgaard+Munch, which placed Munch’s art side-by-side with that of contemporary Bjarne Melgaard, generated large crowds and howls of protest, even a complaint to police. The new Van Gogh exhibit is expected to be much less controversial.
It will feature around 75 paintings and 25 works on paper, including each artist’s famous versions of a starry night. Works such as Munch’s Scream and The Sick Child and Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Reaper will also on be on display. Newspaper Aftenposten called the exhibit “a little sensation,” with nearly 40 Van Gogh works exhibited in Norway on loan from museums in Amsterdam, Paris and New York.
Munch has said he was inspired by Van Gogh, who was 10 years older than Munch and died just before Munch painted The Scream. They reportedly never met, but both are said to have created art with “strong emotional content expressed via a personal and innovative style,” and both lived troubled lives. Munch enjoyed recognition and, eventually, economic success while he lived, while Van Gogh received neither. Van Gogh reportedly never saw Munch’s works, but Munch studied Van Gogh’s carefully. Both were masters of expressionism tied to personal experience.
The exhibit VanGogh+Munch, a collaboration between the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Munch Museum in Oslo, is unique both because of its size and number of important works, and its display of both masterpieces and several works rarely on display. It will run through September 6 in Oslo, which boasts the world’s largest collection of Munch’s art, and then move on to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, reopening on September 24.