‘We are more than just The Scream’ – inside Oslo’s mega tilting Munch museum

6 months ago 106

How fitting that a gathering dedicated to the beingness and enactment of Edvard Munch whitethorn marque you privation to scream.

The £235m mega museum of the tormented Norwegian creator stands arsenic an ominous grey operation connected the Oslo waterfront, lurching retired astatine the apical similar a subject lookout post, keeping ticker implicit the fjord. It is simply a determination scout’s imagination for the eventual villain’s headquarters, an astir comically menacing structure, bent implicit the pristine achromatic iceberg of the city’s beloved opera house with a thuggish hunch. It whitethorn look similar an apt instrumentality for the tortured psyche of Munch, whose shadiness looms ample implicit the metropolis – but the anxiety-inducing effect wasn’t wholly intentional.

“We wanted to make a welcoming vertical symbol,” says Juan Herreros , the Spanish designer down the 13-storey complex. “It whitethorn beryllium against the section inclination for modesty, but we thought the metropolis needed a connection successful a salient determination for this astonishing artist. It creates a caller vantage constituent wherever radical tin observe a antithetic presumption of the landscape.”

Architect Juan Herreros.
Architect Juan Herreros: ‘I americium of the procreation that has consumed excessively galore horizontal museums.’ Photograph: Jan Khür

More than a decennary successful the making, and taxable to aggravated governmental wrangling implicit its cost, signifier and location, the depository yet opened connected Friday, 1 of the largest successful the satellite dedicated to a azygous artist. It is simply a mighty promenade of Munch, a towering stack of 11 galleries connected by zigzagging escalators, crowned with a rooftop edifice and bar.

“Forget everything you cognize astir museums,” says its director, Stein Olav Henrichsen. “This is wholly different.”

The connection depository has been dropped for a start. In an effort to pull caller audiences, who whitethorn beryllium enactment disconnected by the m-word, this is conscionable MUNCH. Its punchy all-caps logo is slanted backmost 20 degrees to lucifer the tilt of the tower, emblazoned crossed the facade successful glowing, afloat storey-high letters. A promotional video sets the youth-oriented tone, featuring teens skateboarding towards the building, texting each different with shriek emojis, connected their mode to bent out, not conscionable look astatine paintings. Henrichsen promises that a brimming programme of events and performances volition “make this location lively from 10am to 10pm each day”.

They won’t beryllium abbreviated of visitors, acknowledgment to planetary Munch-mania. But the impending crowds look to person dictated the design: the full spot feels similar it has been designed to process the hordes arsenic efficiently arsenic possible. A functional foyer, with store and cafe, leads done large solid doors to the ranks of escalators and lifts, wherever visitors are funnelled up betwixt the landings and into the galleries. It is simply a relentlessly airport-like satellite of grey floors, grey walls and grey ceilings, with solid balustrades, alloy trim and aluminium mesh cladding completing the cold, objective palette. Seats are placed astatine the extremity of these agelong landings, with monitors adding to the departure lounge vibe, but it is not a spot you would attraction to linger, oregon rotation aimlessly. It feels similar a vertical conveyor-belt of art.

“I americium of the procreation that has consumed excessively galore horizontal museums,” says Herreros, “where determination are much radical walking around, not knowing wherever they are going, than really looking astatine the paintings.” In opposition to these free-flowing, nationalist space-filled museums, helium says, which are often much astir spectacular architecture than content, “we wanted to marque a paradise for curators, wherever the creation is the protagonist.”

 the escalators of the Munch building.
A vertical conveyor-belt of art: the escalators of the Munch building. Photograph: Einar Aslaksen

He has succeeded successful the consciousness that the galleries themselves are each neutral, rectangular, black-box spaces, designed with a scope of antithetic heights, with nary architectural whimsy getting successful the way. “We are not similar Zaha,” helium says, referring to the precocious Zaha Hadid who designed galleries with impractical angled walls, “killing curators each day”.

The prima of the amusement is so not the gathering but Munch, whose 26,700 works present bask 4 times the magnitude of abstraction than astatine the erstwhile 1960s depository successful Tøyen, 2km to the north-east. Five thematic exhibitions present the galore facets of the artist, from a assemblage of his monumental canvases (so large they had to beryllium craned done a spread successful the broadside of the building), to a level that focuses connected his woodcuts, implicit with a textured array wherever you tin hitch your ain Munch relief. Another country shows his aboriginal experiments with selfies, made aft acquiring a Kodak Brownie camera successful 1902, including an arresting photograph of himself power-posing successful a loin cloth connected the beach, paintbrush successful hand.

Another escalator thrust brings you to a impermanent accumulation that pairs the enactment of Tracey Emin with Munch crossed 2 floors (partly shown astatine the Royal Academy past year). They marque for amazingly bully bedfellows, indulging each other’s bed-bound misery with their anguished, smeary canvases. Emin’s filthy furniture looks precisely the benignant of spot Munch would person been astatine location in, the detritus of utilized tissues and tampons echoing his wont of leaving his paintings extracurricular successful the wood to get covered successful muck and vertebrate droppings.

Further windows into his home beingness are provided connected a level that recreates ghostly achromatic scenes from his location and studio, displaying his paintbrushes, palettes and adjacent the breathing instrumentality helium utilized to alleviate his lifelong lung problems. You whitethorn request akin immunodeficiency if you’re readying to spot the full depository successful a day. It’s a feat of endurance, but it creates a affluent representation of the artist. As Henrichsen puts it: “We are much than conscionable The Scream.”

Everyday objects from the the artist’s beingness  beryllium   alongside his work.
Everyday objects from the the artist’s beingness beryllium alongside his work. Photograph: Beate Oma Dahle/NTB/AFP/Getty Images

It is the destiny of that twisted, gaping look – present a planetary staple of Halloween costumes and emoji keyboards – that they person chiefly to convey for their caller home. One of The Scream paintings was stolen (and aboriginal recovered) from the Tøyen depository successful 2004, sparking statement astir the request for a much fortified facility. Along with the accrued information and climate-controlled galleries, a theatrical instrumentality has been employed to heighten the play of Munch’s best-known work. The depository has 3 antithetic versions of The Scream – painting, crayon and lithograph – hung successful a dimly lit shrine connected the seventh floor, but lone 1 is ever visible. The different 2 stay hidden down achromatic doors, each taking its crook to beryllium revealed for an hr astatine a time. The earliest and astir celebrated mentation of the coating whitethorn beryllium to the National Museum (reopening successful a caller location crossed municipality adjacent year), “But present we are giving them immoderate competition,” says Henrichsen. They’re surely upping the gift-shop stakes. You tin bargain the tormented, quivering look connected everything from tote bags and pens to glasses cases, paintboxes and adjacent a diamond-encrusted ringing – yours for £17,800.

The limited-edition Scream ring, priced £17,800.
The limited-edition Scream ring, priced £17,800. Photograph: Langaard.no

The Munch marathon ends with an open-air extortion terrace, flanked by a penthouse barroom and edifice (sadly not called Munchies), wherever the gathering leans retired to instrumentality successful the presumption of the Bjørvika waterfront. The country has been transformed implicit the past 2 decades from a instrumentality larboard to the taste bosom of the city, with the opera house, an astonishing caller library and present MUNCH, each flanked by the brash “barcode” development of high-rise offices and hotels down – with which the museum’s operation was partially designed to compete.

For a abstraction intended to supply panoramic vistas, the extortion terrace does a bully occupation of blocking the view, with its layers of chunky steelwork and angled glazing creating the feeling of being hemmed in, trapped successful a portion of consumption. Munch was ne'er escaped from his torments, and neither shall the visitant be. “Without anxiousness and illness,” helium wrote, “I americium a vessel without a rudder. I privation to support those sufferings.” Little did helium cognize however his trauma would endure – and extremity up being wrought successful a 60 metre-high anxious monolith of aluminium and glass.