Can you exhibit mass-produced objects and unique works of art in one and the same exhibition? The travelling exhibition Visual neighbourhoods is intended to offer a sideways look at the National
Can you exhibit mass-produced objects and unique works of art in one and the same exhibition?
The travelling exhibition Visual neighbourhoods is intended to offer a sideways look at the National Museum’s collection by highlighting unexpected similarities between art, design and architecture.
To illustrate these similarities, we have hung different genres on the following thematic pegs.
Art and war
Museums all over the world are home to antique stone sculptures that are missing noses, ears and more noble protrusions. Some have been
destroyed by the ravages of time, but many have also been disfigured by conquerors, as is the case with two of the National Museum’s marble
statues, one from the tenth century and one from1942.
Per Kleiva’s silkscreen print from 1971 depicting a swarm of US army helicopters has become a Norwegian icon from resistance to the Vietnam
The anonymous street artist Banksy painted his iconic Happy Choppers as a comment on UK involvement in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003. And that’s why Per Kleiva’s graphic print from the collection is hanging on a wall papered with Banksy’s motif.
Art and consumption
Norwegian artist Per Krohg produced an advertising poster for the brewery Schous Bryggeri around 1917 featuring a caricatured portrayal of a happily inebriated man. The ceramist Ingrid Askeland’s over-dimensional sixpack of beer bottles from 2005 tells a similarly caricatured story from the artist’s own night-life experiences.
The share-listing display case in Art-Nouveau style from the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900 was gifted to the Norwegian Museum of Decorative
Arts and Design by the Oslo Stock Exchange in 1958. The same style was also an important source of inspiration for art and design in the 1960s, as
reflected, for example, in John Alcorn’s advertising motif featuring a sunrise for 7UP. Japonism’s influence on western art is demonstrated through
Totoya Hokkei’s coloured woodcut of a sunrise over the ocean, mounted under the glass lid of the
Art-Nouveau display case.
Art and Kingdom
Conceptions of Norwegian national identity are a recurring theme in the National Museum, but what does an institution’s collection say about its actual
status? In 1982 pop-artist Andy Warhol painted a portrait of Queen Sonja of Norway when she visited the artist’s studio in New York. The fact that
the portrait was accepted as a gift by the museum in 1988 presumably reflects the elevated status of both artist and subject. The “royal decorative
dishes” that adorned many Norwegian homes in the post-war years, on the other hand, have never found their way into the National Museum.
Fishing and oil production have been the cornerstone of Norway’s economy for many years. Oil or Fish? was the title of Terje Roalkvam’s trenchant poster produced for the environmental group Nature and Youth in 1977. Where today the latter still appears to be the poor relation.
There is also a long way between Hans Gude’s romantic portrayal of a net fisherman in Rügen in 1862 and the relentless grind of life in industrial fishing
fleets documented one hundred years later by Kåre Kivijärvi. Nonetheless, they belong in the same visual neighbourhood.