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The Traveling Photographer in Oslo, Norway, Part 2: Art and Culture

Happy New Year!!! In Part 1 of this post, we began our photographic explorations of Oslo at Bygdøy, where many museums devoted to Norwegian maritime history are concentrated.  In this post, we’ll look at destinations which will appeal to those with artistic,  cultural and architectural interests.  As at Bygdøy, my workhorse kit was my Fujifilm X-T2 with my wide-angle zoom lens, the Fujifilm XF 10-24 mm f/4 R OIS lens.

The Fountain by Gustav Vigeland is surrounded by groups of trees which incorporate the cycle of life, from birth to the grave.

Vigeland

We spent a delightful sunny afternoon becoming acquainted with the work of Norway’s favorite sculptor, Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943).  Never heard of him?  Neither had we, but we found much to admire in his monumental sculpture park, Vigeland.  It is the largest sculpture park in the world by a single artist and one of the most visited sites in Norway.

Over 200 figural bronze, granite and wrought iron sculptures make up an amazing ensemble. Vigeland’s home and studio are in an adjacent Neo-classical building and have become a museum housing additional sculptures, models, and drawings.  In return for the use of this building during the last 2 decades of his life, Vigeland bequeathed to the city of Oslo all his subsequent work.  This arrangement, while cementing his legacy in Norway, probably contributed to him not being especially well known elsewhere.  During his thirties, he traveled repeatedly in Europe and spent time in Paris at the studio of Auguste Rodin.  One can readily see a resonance between Rodin’s and Vigeland’s approach to the human form.

As this is a large-scale installation, a wide-angle zoom lens was again a great choice. Visiting during the late afternoon resulted in lovely light. This clearly is a favorite promenade for both locals and visitors. It is not to be missed particularly when the weather is inviting.

 

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Opera House

Visitors to Oslo will note a massive building works project in full swing at the waterfront (notice all the cranes around the Opera House ).  One of the main anchors is the Opera House, by award-winning Norwegian firm Snøhetta.  In addition to housing the theaters for the opera and ballet, as well as the rehearsal spaces, set-building, and costume-sewing studios, and administrative offices, it is a popular public plaza.  Visitors can ascend long sloping roofs evoking Nordic mountains while serving as wonderful vantage points for enjoying views of the harbor. Architecture enthusiasts may want to take a tour, which takes one behind the scenes into the “factory”, the workshop spaces which support the opera and ballet companies.

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A view of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Contemporary Art, from the ferry to Bygdøy.

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

A final recommendation, especially for contemporary art and architecture aficionados, is the Astrup Fearnley Museet, a contemporary art gallery housed in a spectacular Renzo Piano-designed structure on the waterfront on Thief Island. The arcing glass roof joins bridge-connected buildings and houses an enviable collection of contemporary classics.  Next door is a boutique design hotel, also called The Thief, which features artwork throughout its public spaces by notables including Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Julien Opie and Niki de Saint Phalle. The arcing glass roof joins bridge-connected buildings and houses an enviable collection of contemporary classics.  Next door is a boutique design hotel, also called The Thief, which features artwork throughout its public spaces by notables including Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Julien Opie and Niki de Saint Phalle.

The Astrup Fearnley Museum anchors Thief Island, another element of the ongoing harbor waterfront redevelopment.  The disreputable sounding name (Tjuvholmen in Norwegian) dates to seedy roots in the 18th century, as a place where drunks and low-life lurked and criminals were executed.

The Thief

…is a lovely boutique hotel enhanced by contemporary artwork from the Astrup Fearnley Museum next door, a comfortable place to stay, with harbor views and excellent restaurants. A fantastical creature by Niki de Saint Phalle anchors one section of the lobby.

Three days was an all-too-brief introduction into Oslo’s vibrant arts scene and maritime cultural heritage.  Norway’s capital is indeed a gateway, one I hope to pass through again soon, armed with a wide-angle lens on my camera, comfortable shoes on my feet, all the while longing for interesting clouds and warm light!

Coming up:  Svalbard, a magnet for Arctic wildlife and icy landscape photographers.

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