Japanese oil company Idemitsu Petroleum Norge AS has become the first major sponsor of the new Munch Museum, currently under construction on Oslo’s eastern waterfront. Idemitsu has agreed to financial support valued at NOK 10 million (USD 1.3 million) over the next five years.
Idemitsu has supported Oslo’s Munch Museum for nearly 30 years, and is credited by some with all but saving the museum during times of insufficient funding from the City of Oslo. The city inherited Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s vast collection of his own works when he died in 1944.
The Japanese firm’s support began when former museum director Alf Bøe was seeking financing for a needed expansion of the original Munch Museum in Oslo’s Tøyen district. Bøe visited Japan and was introduced to Idemitsu, whose founder, Sazo Idemitsu, was highly interested in art and had left his own art collection to the company’s Idemitsu Museum of Arts in Tokyo. Idemitsu ended up donating around NOK 57 million in 1991 to expand and rehabilitate the old Munch Museum that’s now in the process of being replaced by the new museum rising next to the Opera House in Oslo’s waterfront Bjørvika area.
Idemitsu has since donated millions more over the years to conserve Munch’s famous Skrik (Scream) and Madonna paintings and support exhibits. Hiroshi Arikawa, managing director of Idemitsu Norge, said the company was “very proud” to support the Munch Museum and looked forward “to follow the museum to its new home at Bjørvika.” The company’s new sponsorship will help strengthen art programs at the museum and promote Edvard Munch and the museum both in Norway and internationally.