Art enthusiasts have been pouring into the special exhibit at the Munch Museum in Oslo this summer that features works both by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch and the Netherlands’ Vincent van Gogh. Tourists have also made their way to the unique pairing of two masters that’s exceeding all attendance expectations.
More than 86,000 people had seen the exhibit as of last week, double the number just four weeks ago. Since its opening in May, fully 25,000 more people than expected have bought tickets, often creating long lines at the door.
When newsinenglish.no visited the exhibit, people were lined up out the door in rainy weather to buy tickets. Museum and tourism officials have been urging everyone to buy tickets in advance via online services, which helps speed up entry and relieves congestion at the museum’s security control as well.
“We’ve been working for several years to get more people to visit the museum,” Tone Brunner, marketing chief at the museum, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) the next day. “This is just fantastic.”
On a roll
The relatively small museum in Oslo’s Tøyen district, due to be replaced by a new high-rise museum to be built on Oslo’s eastern waterfront at Bjørvika, has been on a roll of late. Exhibits marking the 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth set new records and an exhibit earlier this year that paired Munch’s art with that of contemporary Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard drew crowds as well, along with some controversy.
All told, museum attendance has hit 126,000 so far this year, as much as in all of last year, which also was a strong year. “This exceeds all our expectations,” said Brunner. She thinks it reflects the museum’s exhibit program, while Munch’s art continues to draw crowds and record prices worldwide.
The Van Gogh+Munch exhibit, mounted in cooperation with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, is especially popular, displaying each artist’s version of a “Starry night” side by side along with each artist’s self-portraits and various works involving houses, trees and landscapes. The exhibit, which runs until September 6, also features paintings by artists who inspired both Munch and Van Gogh, including Claude Monet, Georges Seurat and Paul Gauguin.
The similarities between Munch and Van Gogh, who were contemporaries but never met, are uncanny, with the museum’s time-lines of their lives drawing almost as much visitor attention as their art. The Munch Museum also has plans for exhibits pairing Munch with other artists, including Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland this fall and Asger Jorn, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jasper Johns next year.
Museum officials are also expecting large numbers of visitors in August, which is the main holiday month for Europeans and Americans. A wide array of languages could be heard among visitors last week as well, though, including French, Italian and even Malay.
Concerns over new museum’s costs
Meanwhile, the City of Oslo, which is responsible for the Munch Museum after inheriting Edvard Munch’s vast collection of his own art, is moving forward with plans to built a new museum for Munch’s art but also continues to be worried about its costs. After asking for another NOK 200 million from the state last year, the city now wants an agreement with the state to share costs of operating the museum after it’s built at a cost now estimated to hit NOK 2.8 billion (USD 350 million).
Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that the city has notified the state Ministry of Culture that it will apply for funding for operations. Construction is supposed to start on the new museum, to be built adjacent to the Opera House, next month with a completion date in 2018 and, after a major move from Tøyen, an opening to the public in 2019.
The city is already grappling, however, with budget overruns and concerns over muddy foundations at its new city library also under construction nearby the Opera and Munch Museum sites. That’s made city officials extra worried about the Munch Museum site approved last year.
“We have no plans other than starting construction (in August),” Hallstein Bjercke, the city politician from the Liberal Party in charge of the project, told state broadcaster NRK recently, “but it’s more important that we keep control of costs than the construction schedule. If there’s uncertainty, we’ll take more time.”