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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Melgaard faces more opposition in Oslo

It’s “artists vs. artists” in the latest protests to Bjarne Melgaard’s controversial project A house to die in, in Oslo. Local photographer-artist Per Maning is using his own art exhibit this winter to oppose Melgaard’s project, and plead with Oslo city officials to halt it once and for all.

A model of Melgaard's "House to die in." ILLUSTRATION: Snøhetta
This is what artist Bjarne Melgaard wants to build on the grounds of Edvard Munch’s former home at Ekely in Oslo. Called a “House to die in,” its proponents claim it’s an “exciting” and “fantastic” project. Others are trying again to block the project and preserve Munch’s garden. ILLUSTRATION: Snøhetta

Melgaard’s house is planned for the grounds outside the late artist Edvard Munch’s atelier in Oslo’s Ekely district. It’s an area populated by artists, and under perservation orders by national authorities.

City officials have long been condemned for allowing Munch’s actual home to be torn down after his death in 1944. Now Maning and others are demanding that the city halt further “damage” to the area by stopping the construction of the unusual house where Melgaard says he intends to live, work and even die. Melgaard was born in Australia to Norwegian parents, grew up in Oslo and now lives mostly in New York.

“How is it possible that we have a city preservationist (Byantikvaren) who supports (real estate developer) Selvaag, Melgaard and (architecture firm) Snøhetta in this case?” asks Maning. He told newspaper Aftenposten that he has high expectations that Oslo’s new left-green city government will block Melgaard’s project. He wants the grounds around Munch’s atelier, where he has lived since 2004, “to remain in peace, to Edvard Munch’s memory.”

Maning’s new exhibit at Galleri Brandstrup in Oslo features 55 images from Ekely, and people opposed to Melgaard’s project, including author and architect Torgeir Rebolledo Pedersen and investor Johan H Andresen, taken among the trees that Maning prizes highly. He’s worried the old trees Munch once painted will be lost forever, as will the view from which Munch painted his version of Starry Night. Pedersen said opponents are appealing to the national preservation agency Riksantikvaren to engage itself in the conflict and enforce its preservation order for the property.

Andresen, wealthy heir to a tobacco fortune who’s made his own fortunes in a wide range of projects, told Aftenposten he sympathizes with those trying to preserve Munch’s old property. “Building a House to die in sparks emotion and is quite special,” Andresen said. “There are many ways to die, and then it’s better to do like David Bowie did.”

Melgaard’s partly underground house with atelier and tower remains subject to rezoning authorization from city officials, and political support. Proponents, including Snøhetta’s chief Kjetil Trædal Thorsen claims the trees on the Munch property will be preserved and that “we will be careful with the environment.” Berglund



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