The Munch Museum in Oslo’s Tøyen district is set to move to new quarters on the waterfront in a few years, but a local artist has made sure Munch won’t be leaving the neighbourhood entirely. Steffen Kverneland’s new mural of the famed Norwegian artist Edvard Munch now adorns the wall of an apartment building in the heart of Tøyen.
“The idea to create a mural on this wall came from the neighbourhood patriots in the Tøyen Campaign,” Kverneland, best known for his work as a cartoonist, told newspaper Dagsavisen. The idea to use the cover drawing on Kverneland’s award-winning cartoon-biography of Munch was his own.
Tøyen has long been viewed as a working-class neighbourhood that originally was chosen as the home of the city-owned Munch Museum more than 50 years ago to boost its image. When Oslo officials finally decided to build a new, larger museum, as part of a major waterfront redevelopment plan, local residents were disappointed. Now that waterfront redevelopment is facing challenges that are raising new concerns about the site of the new Munch Museum. Tøyen residents, meanwhile, mounted the Tøyen Campaign to keep Munch in their area and secure some new development of their own.
They weren’t entirely successful, but city officials have promised more investment in Tøyen and now Munch will at least remain on a wall, in the mural that features a background similar to Munch’s famous painting The Scream. “Folks in Tøyen liked the idea that a bit of Munch will stay in Tøyen,” Kverneland said.
He has studied and worked with Munch’s art for years. He was the first to admit, though, “not to be modest, but this mural is a poor replacement for the Munch Museum. I’m very satisfied with it, but nonetheless … the entire debate over the Munch Museum wound up in city politics.” City politicians had been under pressure for years to construct a larger and better museum to house the precious collection of Munch’s art that the artist himself willed to the city. Tøyen boosters thought a new building should be built on the same site as the existing museum.
Kverneland claims the city wanted a new Munch Museum to enhance the value of its major waterfront redevelopment project at Bjørvika. He’s critical of the high-rise design of the new Munch Museum now planned, arguing that “elevators will break up the artistic experience. Munch himself said that his pictures need to be seen in relation to each other.”
His new mural at Jens Bjelkes gate 64, just a few blocks from the existing museum, can at least be viewed with no “visual interruption,” as Kverneland said. Painter Monica Tollnes is behind its creation on the wall, based on Kverneland’s design, and he was pleased with the result. “I thought it would be hard to transfer and was braced for the worst, but luckily Monica is enormously clever,” Kverneland told Dagsavisen. “It came out enormously well.”