Present from Norway: A brand new cultural gem amid the pure wonders

Simon Calder, also called The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about journey for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key journey difficulty – and what it means for you.

Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, New York, London? None of them, in keeping with Karen Hindsbo, can match the world’s latest cultural attraction.

“This is the best museum in the world,” she insists. Karen is just not precisely an neutral observer: she is the director of Norway’s new National Museum.

Norway is quite extra celebrated for its pure wonders than for its cultural property. I hazard a guess that you’ll know of 1, and just one, Norwegian murals: The Scream, Edvard Munch’s celebrated depiction of a vacationer who has simply seen the invoice for a spherical of drinks on the terrace of an Oslo cafe.

The examine in inside agony is a spotlight of this huge new construction, which lastly opens to the general public on Saturday 11 June. While Munch made a number of variations of The Scream, that is the unique – and options the intricate inscription Kan kun være malet af en gal Mand! (“Could only have been painted by a madman”).

But in keeping with Karen, there may be a lot extra.

“We have an amazing collection,” she says. “I think people will be quite surprised about what we have in Norway.

“We have The Scream,  of course, which is one reason. But we have vases from the Ming Dynasty. We have small figurines from the 12th century.

“We have a 1,000-year-old tapestry, which is in an incredible condition. We have contemporary arts, we have installations, we have sculptures…”

And to accommodate them, Norway now has a £600m artwork museum, as a present to itself and the world.

Some individuals have derided the constructing – which wraps partly across the metropolis’s outdated western railway station – calling it the “national prison”. Looking up from the skin on the stern, storm-grey partitions, there may be greater than a contact of most safety about it. But as soon as inside, the Nasjonalmuseet already appears like house.

Karen is speaking to me in The Salon: a lounge space designed with weary vacationers in thoughts, the place they will relaxation and ponder. With chairs strewn round, it appears like a very cozy airport departure lounge, with a tall, floor-to-ceiling window. The view is much better, although: ferries carve throughout Oslo Fjord; the outdated railway station stands like a temple of transportation; and pedestrians create random patterns as they wander beside the water. Cultural collections needn’t be separated from their group.

And higher nonetheless, the roof is one huge backyard, with a good higher, panoramic view of the town skyline and the harbour – plus random touches, comparable to a reproduction of an historical dwelling made from peat, a reminder of life earlier than the oil growth.

Of all of the nations made fabulously wealthy by their hydrocarbon reserves, Norway has spent most correctly and generously – and the nation deserves extra vacationers.

“We will give culture a lift in Norway, and we will lift Norway with culture,” says Karen. “Norway was always [world-class], but now we can present it in a much finer way.”

The second I realise I’ve been away too lengthy is when the person within the cafe seems at my 100kr word as if it belongs in a museum itself. “We can’t accept those any more,” he says, advising me to discover a financial institution the place the forex could be upgraded. Oslo deserves a return go to quickly, with its newest creation of sheer scale and sophistication.


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