"I have no doubt that this solo exhibition with Kapoor will help demonstrate that there remains a tight bond between Norway and Britain when it comes to art."
Dag Aak Sveinar, Director of Punkt Ø Galleri F 15
Arts Exchange Extra: Bringing sculpture by Anish Kapoor to Moss, Norway
Alnoor Mitha and Dag Aak Sveinar
This summer, the stunning coastal town of Moss, a short train-ride outside of Oslo, welcomes the British artist, Anish Kapoor to Punkt Ø Galleri F 15. British Council are lending a number of artworks from their own collection to the exhibition. We spoke to the exhibition curators, Alnoor Mitha of Manchester Metropolitan University and Dag Aak Sveinar, Director of Punkt Ø Galleri F 15, to find out about art in Moss, and why they decieded to bring works by one of the most influential sculptors of today to this part of Norway.
What are your current roles and responsibilities?
Alnoor: I’m the Senior Research Fellow at Manchester School of Arts and Humanities, based at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Over the years, I have curated several pivotal exhibitions, including the Colombo Art Biennial (CAB) in 2016, for which I was selected as the Lead Curator. This year, as well as curating the Kapoor exhibition in Moss, I am Artistic Director and curator of the Asia Triennial Manchester Festival (ATM18). This is a festival of contemporary art presented at various sites and museums in Greater Manchester. The artistic theme for this event is also a provocation: “Who Do You Think You Are?”
Dag: I have worked with contemporary art since graduating from the University in Oslo. For the last decade or so, since becoming Director of Punkt Ø and the Momentum Biennial (one of the most important biennials for contemporary art in the Nordic region) my focus has been on the biennial format and temporarily exhibitions. These have varied from solo shows to group exhibitions organised around a common theme. My curatorial practise has continuously focused on the qualitative aspect of the art, with a particular emphasis on social development and changes, the public response and the way in which state institutions deal with culture.
What is Punkt Ø and how is it structured?
Dag: Punkt Ø receives public grants from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, Østfold county and Moss municipality. As such, we don’t have to depend on bringing in money from sales and private collectors. However, the outfit is free to develop its own exhibition programme. Gallery F 15, which is where Kapoor’s art will be shown, and the surrounding eighteenth century garden, is beautifully located in the middle of the Oslo Fjord. When I was offered the position of Director in 2007 it was the location, coupled with the chance to be autonomous in as a curator, which made it an unmissable opportunity. Moreover, the establishment has a 50 year-long tradition of working with contemporary art, is managed by a dedicated and imaginative body of staff, and is situated not to close and not too far from the nation’s bustling capital.
How long have you been interested in Anish Kapoor?
Alnoor: I have known Anish since the early 1980’s. He was my tutor at the University of Wolverhampton and we regularly met to discuss the making of art. Kapoor was tremendously supportive and I always felt encouraged to do well and make the most of my abilities. In fact, it was difficult not to be inspired by Kapoor as a person as well as a professional artist. Between 1984 and 1986 I was fortunate to be awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship, whereupon I spent two years at the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, Gujarat, India. On my return, I followed Anish’s career whilst pursuing my own development as an artist and curator. It’s nice to continue the relationship into the next generation, too. I went to the Lisson Gallery party last year and introduced my daughter, Amani, to him. He really got on well with her and also introduced his daughter, Alba, to her. It was a very lovely evening.
Dag: My interest in contemporary British sculpture began over twenty years ago, in 1993, when I saw artworks on display at an exhibition held at Oslo’s Museum of Contemporary Art titled, IN SITE – New British Sculpture. It was there that I discovered artists like Kapoor, but also Richard Deacon, Barry Flanagan, Julian Opie and Richard Wentworth. Anish also showed his work at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo earlier, in 1986. I think that he knows that the contemporary art scene in Norway is competent and international.
How did the exhibition in Moss develop?
Alnoor: Anish has been very generous during the research and development of the exhibition. Dag and I met him at his Studio, along with his team, and he has been most encouraging throughout. Because we were also interested in Kapoor’s early years as an artist, we also decided to borrow pieces from other British collections- such as the British Council and Arts Council England. These have complimented loans from Kapoor’s Studio.
Dag: While Kapoor is a great artist, I also wanted to have a successor to two Edvard Munch exhibitions that had been held at the gallery in 2013 and 2016. I wanted to host an artist whose work would be site specific and, given the spectacular location of Gallery F, bring a new dimension to the building’s classicistic architecture and the baroque garden.
What’s the main concept and aim of the exhibition?
Alnoor: I met Dag in South Korea as part of the International Biennial (IBA) event. We got on well and discussed the possibility of working together. When I was asked to present a few ideas for an exhibition, I suggested Anish Kapoor – an artist who hadn’t been shown at Gallery F15. We then decided to co-curate this special exhibition, started sharing ideas and began to plan visits to collections
Dag: Our exhibition shows a broad selection of Anish Kapoor works from the beginning of the 1980s up to the present day. It incorporates monumental and small scale drawings, etchings and sculptures. Kapoor’s iconic sculpture Sky Mirror can be experienced outdoors, standing in the garden and overlooking the Fjord. A great inspiration for our curatorial work has been the work of Norwegian architect and theorist, Christian Norberg-Schulz, especially his books on the phenomenology of place. For instance his books Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (1979) and Nightlands (1996). The uniqueness of this exhibition at Gallery F 15, in terms of location and artist, is extremely pertinent.
What’s the attraction of Moss as a destination for art lovers?
Dag: Moss has a unique position in the north of Europe because of its history, interest in culture and dedication to the contemporary art scene. Gallery F 15 was founded in 1966 and the Momentum Biennial in 1998. Next year it’s the 10th edition of the biennial.
Moss has a long history when it comes to art and culture, which stretches back to the eighteenth century. The enlightenment spirit was strong here, and again, it’s geographic position means that it is accessible both for Norwegians but also Danes and Swedes. This interaction with other parts of Europe has made it a dynamic place. Many people spend their weekend in Moss where one can swim, walk, relax and visit some interesting architectural sites. Many art lovers who are interested in Edvard Munch’s life also travel to Moss and Åsgårdstrand where he once lived and found inspiration.
You’re borrowing a few pieces from the British Council – why is that?
Dag: I got to know the British Council Collection when I was working with the organisation National Touring Exhibitions Norway from 1997 until 2005. British Council in Oslo was an important part of the contemporary art scene in Norway and we developed a very tight working relationship. I remembered the quality of the collection’s artworks and was keen to find a way to exhibit some pieces at Gallery F. We always have British artists for Momentum. In 2014, for instance, Susan Philipsz did the landscape project The Distant Sound. I have no doubt that this solo exhibition with Kapoor will help demonstrate that there remains a tight bond between Norway and Britain when it comes to art.
If the UK was to open a new exhibition on a Norwegian artist, who would you recommend?
Dag: We started this year’s programme at the Gallery F 15 with an exhibition on new contemporary art. This exhibition was called Repeat. Forward and showed six artists we found after researching the art scenes in Tromsø, Trondheim, Bergen and Oslo. As the title suggests, Norwegian artists seem to be looking back towards older art forms and genres. For instance, makers are taking inspiration from trends such as abstract expressionism, naïve art, surrealism and minimalism. Yet there is also a new approach to materials, as well as content and poetics. In short, it’s an interesting time to exhibit Norwegian artists, not just those trained in the fine arts, but also craft and design. Two artists that stand out are Torbjørn Rødland, who will be exhibiting his work at the David Kordansky Gallery in LA, and Eirik Senje, whose last exhibition was at Gallery K in Oslo.