A wide range of Norwegian artists laid their fellow artist Terje Brofos, better known as Pushwagner, to rest on Monday in the building they can all claim as their own. Kunstnernes Hus (The Artist’s House) in Oslo was packed as they gathered to pay tribute in a ceremony that ended with a long round of applause.
Pushwagner died April 24, at an age of 77, after a short illness. Many marveled at the fact he lived as long as he did, given his history of drug abuse and living on the streets of Oslo, while also surrounded by artists he admired and who clearly admired him.
“Pushwagner was a good friend for 20 years,” TV anchor and musician Thomas Seltzer, who served as a “master of ceremonies” at Pushwagner’s unusual funeral, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), which covered the funeral for Norway’s national nightly newscast. “For me, he was part of the rock music world in Oslo, as much as being part of the artistic milieu. For a while, he lived in the studio that the Turboneger guitarist Knut Schreiner was operating.”
Monday’s ceremony marked the first time that Kunstnernes Hus was used as the venue for a funeral. Hundreds turned out for it, with the house’s director Anne Hilde Neset saying it simply was natural that Pushwagner be bid farewell from the large artist-owned gallery that adjoins the park around the Royal Palace.
“Pushwagner doesn’t fit in a church, but we are in many ways a church for artists,” she told NRK. “It felt right for us to hold a ceremony for him here.”
It opened with singer Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen, who sang at several of Pushwagner’s exhibitions, performing her own version of “I’ll be seeing you.” It continued with another song, Asbjørnsen’s own “Pink Push Wagon” that she wrote for the artist, and his two daughters, Bonnie and Elizabeth Brofos, spoke. They were glad so many people turned out to bid their father farewell.
“We’re here today to celebrate the fantastic life of a great artist,” said Bonnie Brofos. “He was a phenomenon, a visionary, and in the end, a successful artist.” He could also be “a royal pain in the ass,” according to his daughters, but “a family man” in his own way.
Actor Aksel Hennie also hailed the artist, reading aloud from texts by Axel Jensen, the late author whom Pushwagner also worked with for several years, illustrating his books. Hennie said he met Pushwagner in a bar in the 1990s, when he was going to acting school, and bought the artist a drink. “He thanked me many times,” Hennie said. “Later in the evening he tried to sell me a picture. Today I’m sorry I didn’t have a bigger student loan.”
Pushwagner’s funeral ended with a full minute of applause before his casket was carried out and down the stairs of the artists’ classic building, to the tune of “St James Infirmary.” “Rest in peace, Terje,” said one former partner who wound up in a legal conflict with Pushwagner. “You did a good job.”