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Previewing the New National Museum in Oslo

Illustration of the new National Museum in Oslo, Norway.
Illustration: MIR/Statsbygg

Scheduled to open sometime in 2021, Norway's new National Museum is set to become one of the most important cultural buildings in the Nordic region.

Oslo's new National Museum has been on the horizon for some time now. Unfortunately, the project has been hit by delays and still hasn't opened its doors to the public.

The new building has also been the subject of criticism by some and a source of excitement for those eager for the modern new gallery to open. Let's take a closer look at the plans.

A new cultural powerhouse for Norway

Every country with an art, architecture or design history should have one main location befitting of the diverse array of precious collections in its possession. Norway is no different in this respect. Something new and modern is coming to Oslo's waterfront.

The new National Museum at Vestbanen is now only a matter of months away from opening. I for one am hugely excited, not only for the new exhibitions but also to see the modern architecture of the building in its final state.

The city’s new National Museum was due to open this year (2020) but has been hit by delays. The museum is now planned to open sometime in 2021 although at the time of writing, no specific date has been given.

The spectacular new building

In 2013, Norway's parliament approved the plans and the 5.3 billion Norwegian kroner bill for a new National Museum. Those plans include an exhibition area of some 10,000 square metres, part of the total surface area of 56,000 square metres. That will make the new museum the biggest of its kind in Scandinavia.

There are plans to have 5,000 works displayed at the new museum. This almost doubles the amount of objects in the National Museum's collection that were displayed across the previous buildings. There is also an auditorium that will seat 174 people and a 2,400 square metre ‘light hall' designed to exhibit collections on a temporary or rolling basis.

Illustration of Norway's new National Museum at night
Illustration: MIR/Statsbygg

Similar to the Opera House in the city, a viewing spectrum on the roof will be accessible to visitors. From the roof terrace, views of Akershus Fortrus, Rådhusplassen and Oslo fjord can be enjoyed. Finally, the new museum will have all the usually amenities such as a restaurant, cafés and several boutique shops.

The new National Museum will be a state of the art and modern build and will make use of many new technologies. This kind of approach will improve the visitor experience and, additionally, increase the amount of works the venue is able to display.

Criticism of the new museum

The building at Vestbanen has, at times, drawn opposition from a number of people in the city. Some have stated their distaste for the expensive new building by calling it the new ‘national prison' because of what they perceive to be a dull and plain exterior.

The architecture may not be to everybody’s taste, but first impressions often change over time when it comes to new buildings in Oslo. For example, the city’s Opera House received a similar backlash in the early days. However, it has gone on to become an iconic part of the city and a tourist hotspot.

Delays to the project

The project at Vestbanen has been hit by several delays, the latest of which was the delay in the delivery of some essential equipment which has put an end to a 2020 opening. It now won't open until 2021 at the earliest.

The building is part of an ongoing drive to develop Oslo particularly along the city’s waterfront area. One of the masterminds behind the new museum’s design is architect Klaus Schuwerk who says about his vision: “the materials should stand the test of time, so that the building can age with patina and dignity.”

If you simply can’t wait for 2021, fear not! You can enjoy some exhibits including architecture at Banksplassen and displays at Villa Stenersen. The former opened up again on the 14 May and is open every day except Mondays. Villa Stenersen re-opened on 24 May. Of course, guidelines and restrictions are in place for both venues at the time of writing.

If you can't make it to either of those venues, there is also an online exhibition featuring the 19th-century German-born Norwegian Wilhelm von Hanno, an architect of huge acclaim in his homeland. The prolific designer is responsible for Oslo’s Trinity Church amongst many other builds.

New Museum Works

The collection and planned exhibitions

Established in 2003, the National Museum of Oslo holds many incredible items in its collection of around 400,000 items. Many are of Norwegian origin, but there's plenty of works from renowned international artists past and present too.

The first display in the new museum’s light hall will be dedicated to contemporary Norwegian artworks. This will be the perfect place to discover Norway’s ‘next big thing’ in the world of art.

The delays in the opening of the new building at Vestbanen means that many of those impressive items are still in storage. This includes a couple of Edvard Munch's paintings such as ‘The Scream‘.

Much of the country's valuable art collection is being temporarily stored in the old National Art Gallery in Universitetsgata.

The new museum building at Vestbanen might not open its doors until next year, but I for one am hugely excited to visit the biggest art museum in Scandinavia when it does finally open.

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About the Author: Mathew Paul Gundersen

Mathew is an English – part Norwegian – guy living in Oslo, where he is a master's student in Ibsen Studies at the University of Oslo. In June 2019, he graduated with a bachelor degree in English Literature from the University of Buckingham. Mathew is also a writer, an English teacher, media specialist and general Norway enthusiast. His Great Grandfather was Norwegian and this is what brought about an initial move to Norway and Stavanger in 2016. Mathew's personal blog can be found here: godfoten.wordpress.com.

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