Magne Furuholmen, one of the three Norwegian superstars forming the rock band a-ha, didn’t need to be searching high and low for a new job but he’s decided to take on a new one anyway. On Tuesday Furuholmen was formally appointed by Norway’s government minister in charge of cultural affairs to be the new chairman of the annual Bergen International Festival (Festspillene i Bergen).
It may signal the end of Furuholmen’s scoundrel days, even though he and fellow band members Morten Harket and Pål Waaktaar Savoy are still touring internationally after making yet another comeback despite their much-hyped retirement from the concert stage. Furuholmen still believes he has the time, and not least the desire, to lead the board responsible for Norway’s largest annual cultural event.
“Everything I’m interested in, is assembled in Festspillene,” Furuholmen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The only thing that made me think twice (when Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland asked him to take on the position) was whether I was certain I could do a good job.”
Helleland seems certain that he will. “Magne Furuholmen absolutely has the right competence,” Helleland said. “He has experience from various other boards, he’s a leading artist himself and has a large and widespread international network that can be an asset for the Bergen International Festival.”
Furuholmen was a founding menber of a-ha, best known for its international hit song Take on me, and has played with the bank for 30 years. He also debuted as an artist in 1989 and his works have been widely exhibited and sold both in Norway and abroad. He’s run a gallery at Tjuvholmen in Oslo, been a member of the board of Queen Sonja’s international graphics foundation QPSA – The Queen Sonja Print Award, and of the board for Snøhetta Brand Design. He’s also been on the board of Norwegian Graphic Artists and was knighted by King Harald in 2012 along with other a-ha members for their contributions to Norwegian culture.
Furuholmen himself thinks his celebrity status can be both positive and negative, but he that his network was his biggest asset in landing the job. He said he has a vision of building an outward-looking and distinct profile for the festival, both internationally and within Norway.
“I’ll do my best to meet that ambition,” Furuholmen said.
The Bergen International Festival runs for two weeks beginnig in late May, is traditionally opened by the king and queen and features a wide range of music, theater and other artistic exhibitions. Furuholmen said the major goal will be to make the festival much more internationally known: “I want to make the festival, shall we say, the world’s most important? Then we can see how far we get,” he added with a smile.
He said he’d already had “a long dialogue” with festival director Anders Beyer, who called Furuholmen “an exciting choice” as leader of the festival board. “Magne Furuholmen is, of course, associated with a-ha, but he’s much more than that.”
Commentators called Furuholmen’s appointment both fun and surprising. “I think it was a wise choice,” said Agnes Moxnes, cultural commentator for NRK. “One thing is that he is a big international star, and he’s a good musician, but he’s also a man who can manage. And he’s so well-known that he will command attention just by the power of his name. I think he’ll be a good man for Festspillene, because he has both knowledge about quality and an incredible amount about how to reach a wide audience.”
Furuholmen succeeds former culture minister and entertainer Åse Kleveland as leader of the festival board. His term will run through 2019.