National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design – Oslo, Norway
The National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design (Norwegian: Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design) in Oslo is Norway’s largest and most important museum; the museum is housed in an imposing stone-clad building, designed by German architects Kleihues + Schuwerk, inaugurated on June 11, 2022.
Cover image: the National Museum in Oslo; photo Frode Larsen courtesy Nasjonalmuseet.
The National Museum was founded in 1837 as the Norwegian State Central Museum of Fine Art and then renamed National Gallery; in 2003, the institution merged with the Museum of Architecture, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, and the Museum of Contemporary Art to form the National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design (often shortened to National Museum/Nasjonalmuseet). Following the merger, the Norwegian government decided to create a new, larger home for the institution and organized an international architectural competition in 2010 which was won by Germany’s Kleihues + Schuwerk. After a two-year delay, the new building of the museum eventually opened on June 11, 2022.
An aerial view of the National Museum complex with the historic West Station of Oslo in the foreground and the Pipervika fjord on the left; photo Iwan Baan.
The new museum building
The new home of the National Museum is located on the site of the former West railway station (Vestbanestasjon) overlooking the Pipervika fjord in Oslo’s city center; with a gross floor area of 54,600 square meters / 587,700 square feet, the museum is the largest in the Nordic countries and one of the biggest in Europe.
Along with 13,000 square meters / 140,000 square feet of gallery space, the National Museum building contains a restaurant, a museum shop, an auditorium, a multifunctional hall, a library, laboratories, studios, workshops, offices, archive rooms, and storage rooms.
The building designed by Klaus Schuwerk is a massive structure clad mostly in gray Norwegian schist and topped by a translucent volume, known as the “Light Hall”, which accommodates a 2,400-square-meter / 25,800-square-foot temporary exhibition space; the translucent facade of the Light Hall is made of “marble glass”, a material consisting of a thin layer of marble between two layers of transparent glass.
The new construction integrates with two existing buildings century, including the Oslo West Station designed by the architect Georg Andreas Bull in 1872, through an entrance courtyard.
The ground floor accommodates the foyer, exhibition rooms, the cafe, the auditorium, and the library whose reading room is illuminated by a reflecting pool. The second floor contains a sculpture atrium, galleries, and a terrace with a roof garden, while the Light Hall dominates the third floor.
The $660M building of the museum received mixed reviews, while it has been praised by some as a rational and sustainable exhibition machine, others found it too expensive and visually dull.
View of the southeast side of the museum from Brynjulf Bulls Square; photo Iwan Baan.
The entrance courtyard; photo Iwan Baan.
Aerial view, the translucent box which caps the museum contains the “Light Hall” exhibition space; photo Iwan Baan.
The collection of the National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design is pretty diverse and consists of about 47,000 pieces, 5,000 of which are on exhibition in the museum’s galleries, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, videos, objects of decorative arts, garments, textiles, and furniture, dating from Prehistory to the present.
Yet, the centerpiece of the National Museum is arguably its large collection of Norwegian and international paintings, especially the room dedicated to famous Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. The museum holds indeed a noteworthy corpus of Munch’s works, which comprises some 235 pieces including one of the four existing versions, possibly the most famous, of his well-known painting “The Scream”.
Also very interesting is the collection of landscape paintings by 19th-century artist Johan Christian Dahl.
The museum’s collection also features notable works by Albrecht Dürer, Édouard Manet, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, and Amedeo Modigliani, among others.
The program of events and activities of the National Museum features special exhibitions, guided tours, film screenings, and educational workshops.
Edvard Munch, “The Scream”, 1893, oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard; photo Nasjonalmuseet / Børre Høstland.
Johan Christian Dahl, Storm Clouds, 1835, oil on canvas; image Nasjonalmuseet.
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #839, on view in the second-floor sculpture hall; photo Nasjonalmuseet.
The library; photo Ina Wesenberg.
An interior view of the “Light Hall” temporary exhibition space; the translucent skin of the hall is made of a layer of thin marble encapsulated in two layers of clear glass; photo Iwan Baan.
Photo National Museum/Annar Bjørgli.
All photos courtesy of The National Museum of Norway.
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