We can look back at an incredible year. In early February the exhibition Murakami by Murakami opened, highlighting the work of the contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. This was his very first solo exhibition in Scandinavia, and was the major art event of the spring in Oslo. A total of 80,000 people visited the exhibition. “Not since the museum opened at Tjuvholmen five years ago have we experienced such enthusiasm, and it is clear that Murakami’s art really resonates with a broad audience,” says Director Gunnar B. Kvaran about the massive interest shown for the exhibition.
In June the exhibition Chinese Summer opened, presenting contemporary Chinese art from the Astrup Fearnley Collection. Today’s China is no longer in the cultural periphery, but in the centre, and has emerged as a symbol of power, flexibility and dynamism. The exhibition focused on two generations of Chinese artists and how they related to both continuing established traditions and participating in the future development of their country. Two works by the highly profiled contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, Tyres (2016) and Odyssey (2017), which were shown at the exhibition, were purchased by and incorporated into the Astrup Fearnley Collection.
In September the third major exhibition of the year, Matias Faldbakken – Effects of Good Government in the Pit – opened. This was the first solo exhibition of a contemporary Norwegian artist since the museum moved to Tjuvholmen. The exhibition displayed Faldbakken’s works from the past decade, and included videos, sculptures, collages, paintings and installations. Faldbakken’s use of materials, and his many references to both the underground culture and our literary and art-historical heritage, reveal a pared-down contemporary aesthetic that holds beauty and relevance for our time.
In 2017 the Astrup Fearnley Collection was still shown under the title The World is Made of Stories, with an emphasis on the narrative qualities of the artworks. The works that are on display from the collection are constantly being changed, and among the high points in 2017 were the return of Francis Bacon’s well-known painting Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus in the Kiefer Hall, and later the re-encounter with Olafur Eliasson’s impressive colour installation Your Colour Memory, which has not been shown at the museum since long before the move to Tjuvholmen.
At the beginning of the year we invited members of the Astrup Fearnley Museet art club to the course What is contemporary art? The course consisted of six lectures where the knowledgeable art experts at the museum introduced basic concepts and artistic styles from modern art history, such as readymade, pop art, conceptual art, performance art, video art and appropriation art. The course was a great success, with over 200 participants each evening, and was therefore offered again in the autumn. In early 2018 we will again offer six new courses that will shed light on new aspects of contemporary art.
In December the museum presented a new concept, to be repeated on an annual basis, where a contemporary artist is invited to decorate a Christmas tree, an “Artist Tree”, in the museum’s lobby. The world-famous Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard agreed to be the first to undertake the task, and the tree was lit on Friday, 1 December, during the museum’s annual HO HO HOLY Christmas market in the lobby. Melgaard decorated the tree with ostensibly colourful and sparkling ornaments which, however, when examined more closely, might spark questions, reflection and perhaps discomfort about the meaning of Christmas.
We are grateful to everyone who helped to generate energy and involvement in contemporary art and who contributed to making 2017 a fantastic year. In 2018 the Astrup Fearnley Museet will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and we are looking forward to sharing an eventful milestone year with you.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!