Tracey Emin holding a miniature model of The Mother. You can see the new Munch Museum (still under construction) in the background. Photo (C) Kulturetaten.

"Tracey Emin is a well-established figure within the professional art scene in Norway. However, she is probably not so well-known by members of the general public. We’re hoping that the central location of Emin’s The Mother will make her more of a household name."

Lise Mjøs, Director of the Art Department for the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Kulturetaten).

Showing a new face: Tracey Emin’s sculpture in Oslo, Norway

In 2020 Oslo will unveil a new sculpture by British artist Tracey Emin, titled The Mother. The work has been commissioned by Oslo Municipality. We spoke to Lise Mjøs, Director of the Art Department for the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Kulturetaten), about why public sculpture matters in Norway.

What does the Agency for Cultural Affairs do for Oslo, Norway and the arts?

Our involvement in the arts spans a broad range of responsibilities and initiatives in the Norwegian capital. The Art Programme run by the Agency for Cultural Affairs is responsible for collecting and coordinating production of professional art in Oslo’s public spaces. It also plays an active role in cultural development and in funding - artists, art institutions and cultural events in the city of Oslo.

In addition, we are in charge of Byarkivet (the City Archive) and Oslo Kulturskole, an institution offering educational programmes for children in most disciplines related to art and culture. We also run Øvingshotellet, a rehearsal space for musicians and bands, and Popsenteret, a museum for popular music. There is also the Vigeland Museum and the management of cultural heritage properties owned by the municipality of Oslo.Because the wider Oslo area is home to a great number of art professionals, supporting the cultural scene is of great value and importance for Norway as a nation.

What do you think a new, large sculpture by Tracey Emin will do for the city’s skyline?

The new Munch Museum and the adjacent Museum Island, where Tracey Emin’s The Mother will be placed, are situated along the habour which stretches nine kilometres along Oslo’s waterfront. It is here that one can already find the National Opera and Ballet, as well as the new public library (Deichman Library) and National Museum - which will open in the next year or so.

Oslo is therefore expecting increasing numbers of visitors to this area; the Museum Island allows commissioned work to be seen against the fjord as well as the neighbouring buildings. It will be developed as a recreational space where Emin’s sculpture and the new landscape will be the main attraction.

Is Tracey Emin a well-known artist in Norway?

Tracey Emin is a well-established figure within the professional art scene in Norway. However, she is probably not so well-known by members of the general public. We’re hoping that the central location of Emin’s The Mother will make her more of a household name.

Do you think Norway is a country that celebrates female artists in the same way that it celebrates male artists?

As in most western countries, I’d say that from a historical perspective female artists have unfortunately received less attention than their male counterparts. However, Norwegian social values are rooted in egalitarian ideals where equality between the sexes is of great importance. All sectors of society must strive to keep up a good balance. We are very aware of this in our work for the City of Oslo Art Programme, both when contracting new commissions and when investing in new artworks for our art collection.

How does Tracey Emin’s artwork relate to work by Edvard Munch?

A quote from the Jury’s assessment of Emin’s proposal for the Museum Island gives an appropriate answer to this question:
"Emin’s proposal of a large seated female figure facing the fjord promises to be a striking presence at the edge of the Museum Island and against the backdrop of the cityscape / architecture of Bjørvika. With its immediate and visceral artistic approach it appears both intimate and majestic, vulnerable and grandiose. The title The Mother refers to a mature protector and the sculpture brings to mind the ubiquitous motifs of women and the nude in Munch’s work.
The jury believes that this proposal will appeal to a wide range of visitors and that The Mother has the potential to become a landmark and a symbol not only for the Munch Museum but also for Oslo harbour. Tracey Emin is a life-long admirer of Munch, and his art has been a vital inspiration for her for many years, making The Mother both apt and site relevant."

Tell us about the City of Oslo Art Collection

The collection consists of works of art found outside of the museum collections and owned by the City of Oslo. These artworks are exhibited in public spaces, and include site-specific art, sculptures in outdoor spaces and smaller works displayed inside Oslo Municipality's many offices and institutions (schools, nursing homes, and so forth). The Agency for Cultural Affairs assumes the day-to-day management of the collection. This includes new purchases, public commissions, placement, conservation, loans, and so on.

The City of Oslo Art Collection was established in 1946. The work involved registration of the art in the City Hall, and new acquisition from this point in time were systematically documented. Today the collection has thousands of works of art in many locations throughout the city. Many major Norwegian artists are represented, as well as international names like Henry Moore, Ivor Roberts-Jones, Auguste Rodin, Le Corbusier – and now Tracey Emin.
The Agency for Cultural Affairs assumes overall, coordinating responsibility for the production of professional art in public environments in Oslo.

Do you think that a capital city has a duty to use culture to create communities?

This is one of our greatest goals working with art in the public realm: to lay the groundwork for memorable cultural experiences that are accessible for everyone and inspirational to all. This overarching goal is formulated in the regulations for the Art Programme of the City of Oslo, which states that:
The Art Programme will work to impact and improve the public buildings and outdoor spaces of Oslo Municipality for the benefit of the general public. Through purchasing finished art, art production, art management and communication the programme will stimulate an increased public interest in art as an enriching, engaging field that promotes reflection and contributes to new arenas for the experience of and interaction with art as well as ensuring that children and young people have access to high-quality art.

Are there any women sculptors in Norway that should be known in the UK?

Norway has plenty of talented female artists working within different art fields, including sculpture. The City of Oslo has been lucky to cooperate with many of these in commissioned works and exhibitions. Others are represented in our collection. Among them are Marianne Heske, Asbjørg Betty Borgfelt, Åsil Bøthun, Ann Iren Buan, Aase Texmon Rygh, Hanne Friis, Tone Vigeland, Anna Daniell, May von Krogh, Hanne Tyrmi, Lotte Konow Lund, Marianne Heier, Viel Bjerkeset Andersen, Stefany Hillgaard, Vanessa Baird and Camille Norment.

Weeping Nude, oil on canvas, 1913–1914 by Edvard Munch. (C) the artist. Tracey Emin is a long-time admirer of the work of Edvard Munch, and will be the first contemporary artist to exhibit at the new Munch Museum when it opens in 2020.
Naked Model by the Wicker Chair by Edvard Munch, 1929. (C) the artist.
Hode (Head), by Marianne Heske, one of Norway’s most famous contemporary artists. Photo (C) Kulturetaten.
Works from the City of Oslo’s extensive art collection were shown in an exhibition at Kunstnernes Hus last spring. In the foreground, a sculpture by May von Krogh. Photo (C) Kulturetaten.

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