Experiencing Art in Oslo: Classic, Modern and the Unexpected

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Art is a universal language that transcends the bonds of time and brings cultures together. It tells the details that you won’t find in history books. So much can be deducted from the slightest strokes or the plainest of pictures. It invokes emotion, tells a story, exposes a secret, and creates life in a sense. If you are moved by art and the lives of the incredible artists through history, consider a trip to Oslo, Norway. The city has museums that house almost every genre of art and hold works from around the world.

As a Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch is an important figure in the history of Norway. He has created iconic pieces such as The Scream, and his work is known worldwide for its often dark and thought provoking themes. At the Munch Museum there are over 28,000 works of art created by Munch in many different mediums. There are also personal effects on display that once belonged to this great artist. In 2015, this museum will feature an exhibit that will identify the thread of similarity between Munch and his so called counterpart. It will also showcase another current Norwegian artist whose work parallels the strong topics of Munch and often invokes controversy. This exhibit will be an interesting look at three incredible artists and the comparability of their work.

art in oslo
Photo Credit: VisitOSLO Munchmuseet

In May thru September, The Munch Museum will feature side by side comparisons of Munch’s work and the work of Vincent Van Gogh. These two artists were born only ten years apart and both lived lives of great difficulty that influenced their work. The raw emotion and relatable themes of their paintings were very similar which has made many art historians consider them as counterparts. View their most famous works of art together and see the remarkable similarities in their technique and how they addressed difficult subject matter.

In addition to the work of Van Gogh, The Munch Museum will also showcase the work of Bjarne Melgaard alongside the works of Munch. Melgaard is a Norwegian artist currently based in new York, and his powerful creations touch upon social and political matters as well as themes of life, death, and everything in between. As in Munch’s time, he also provokes strong reactions with his works and their ties to universal themes. Seeing these works side by side reveals just how relevant Munch’s work is today, seventy one years after his death. It is a tribute to the importance of art and how it affects our lives and social paradigms. These exhibits expose the issues of humanity that people have struggled with throughout history, and while so many have been unable to find the words to express these ideas, these three artists have been able to describe them on canvas. 

Oslo has a plethora of museums that celebrate the culture and history of artists worldwide. Here are just a few of the many.

The National GalleryCreated in 1837, this gallery houses Norway’s largest public collection of paintings and sculptures. There are works of art from around the world and the permanent exhibits feature art from Norway during the Romantic period through the mid 1900s. You can view Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream. Take advantage of free admission on Sundays!

The National Museum – ArchitectureBuilt originally as a bank in 1830, this unique building was designed by Christian Heinrich Grosch, one of Norway’s most important architects of the 19th century. Eventually, the building was expanded upon by architect Sverre Fehn and turned into a museum in 2008. It features architectural exhibits through many mediums including photos, drawings, and models. This museum encompasses both historical and modern themes that are reflected in the building itself. It also has free admission on Sundays!

International Museum of Children’s ArtThere is something magical about how children see the world, and once we grow up, it is difficult to recapture that whimsy. At this museum, you can see works of art from children in over 180 countries. Created in many different forms, you can see art as textile works, drawing, sculptures, paintings and much more. These works of art capture how children see the world and their place within it.

art in oslo
Photo Credit VisitOSLO Nancy Bundt

The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet – See some performance art while you are visiting Norway. Located on the harbor, the Opera house has a marble rooftop for visitors to climb and catch beautiful views of the fjord. Its interior horseshoe shape is a call to former classical theatres. The unique architecture was designed by the Norwegian firm, Snohetta, and it has received many prestigious awards. There are three stages that hold concerts as well as the rooftop. See a show or take a guided tour.

Astrup Fearnley Museum – Created with a maritime theme, Italian Architect Renzo Piano designed this spectacular building which includes a glass ceiling reminiscent of a ship’s sail. Inside this unique building, there are permanent and rotating exhibits that feature modern and contemporary art. The museum aims to collect one of kind pieces from around the world. There are pieces from Europe, Brazil, China, Japan, and India.

Museum of Decorative Arts and Design – Take a look at a different kind of art and look at exhibits of fashion, design, and applied arts from the 7th century all the way to present day. This collection has over 35,000 items from Greek to East Asian. View European apparel throughout the ages as well as beautiful decorative pieces.

Art in Oslo
Photo Credit VisitOSLO Roberto Meazza Ó Vigeland-Museet/BONO

The Vigeland Museum – This museum is found within the home and studio of sculptor Gustav Vigeland. Explore the many works as well as the creative process that fueled this great Norwegian sculptor. You can also see more of his work at Vigeland Park.

Oslo is a city full of culture and beauty that prides itself on a strong history of art. There are enough museums to spend an entire vacation gazing at canvases from around the world and throughout the centuries. Visitors will be able to see once in a lifetime pieces of art and prove that a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

14 thoughts on “Experiencing Art in Oslo: Classic, Modern and the Unexpected”

  1. Oslo sounds like such a wonderful city to visit! The International Museum of Children’s Art would definitely be on our list, since my daughter loves to create I know she would enjoy seeing other children’s works.

  2. Can you believe I have only ever been to 1 museum and it was the museum where the statue of David is?! It just really isn’t my thing but it is def. something you need to experience. You may have convinced me to give it another go though!!


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