A Guide to Norway’s Burgeoning Contemporary Art Scene

As the country's cultural scene heats up, we share what to see, where to eat, and where to stay this summer

The iconic Høse Bridge is part of a newly launched architectural tour.
Photo: © Dag Jenssen

Around 18 hours of sunlight define Norway’s bright, languid summer days, meaning more time to see the country’s natural beauty, enjoy fabulous dining spots, and explore the impressive cultural offerings. If Edvard Munch is the country’s best-known artist (and the world’s most famous portrayer of existential dread), he’s also the forerunner of a vibrant, burgeoning, contemporary art scene. Here, we share what to see at the biennales, museums, galleries, and artist–run spaces.

Untitled Carrier, 2006, car paint on bronze. Photo: Anders Sune Berg, courtesy of the artist

MOSS 

This summer, the small coastal town becomes an international art destination. Located an hour drive south from Oslo, Moss hosts Momentum 9: The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art through October 11. Get ready for some dark stuff: the programming takes “alienation” as its theme. As with many biennials, exploring the venues offers one of the event’s great pleasures. While the main arenas are the Momentum Kunsthall and Galleri F 15, works by the 30 participating artists are dotted around various off-site locations in the city. Located behind the window of an old tower, for example, is Jone Kvie’s bronze sculpture of a kneeling astronaut. The work leads to both literal and figurative reflection as viewers glimpse themselves and the surrounding riverside buildings in the figure’s helmet.

House of Foundation cafe.

Don’t miss House of Foundation, a charming bookstore and cafe that serves as a hub for the city’s culturally minded. Upstairs, you’ll find transfixing black–and–white video work by Kjersti Vetterstad, and an imaginative multimedia project by Johannes Heldén that operates as a science fiction visual art mystery.

OSLO

Don’t miss the current exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art—it’s your last chance to visit before the museum reopens in 2020. Through September 3, the institution hosts wonderful, wacky work by Tori Wrånes. Galleries filled with flickering lights, strange sounds, and an assortment of made and found objects present an enigmatic, wholly immersive experience. In the middle of the first room, a large, tiered rotating platform beckons the viewer to sit and spin as they enjoy the performance.

Installation view of Tori Wrånes’s immersive exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Frode Larsen, courtesy of Nasjonalmuseet

Northwest of the city, the Emanuel Vigeland Museum provides more dramatic, haunting art in the form of giant frescoes and bronze figures. Enter the dark barrel-vaulted room and wait for your eyes to adjust. Gradually, you’ll begin to see the violent and erotic scenes that cover the walls and ceiling. Don’t leave the city without checking out the Munch Museum, where the literary icon Karl Ove Knausgård has curated a show of 140 works by Munch, bringing the country’s best known cultural figure into a wider conversation.

BERGEN

One of Bergen’s hippest galleries, Entrée, exhibits a loud project titled “Time Flies When Slipping Counter-Clockwise” by New York artists through the end of July. Dan Riley and Jeannine Han transform the space into a sound designer’s studio, replete with tapestries-cum-acoustic panels, video, and enigmatic beats.

Nikolai Astrup, Epletre i blomst, ca. 1920. Photo: Courtesy of Kode

At the five museums that comprise KODE, you’ll find moody paintings by Queen Sonja of Norway (an enthusiastic art patron who in recent years took up artmaking herself,) a Nikolai Astrup exhibit that attempts to bring the modern landscape painter “out of the shadows,” and an exhibition of locally–made gold and silver objects that will appeal to the design-oriented. And when art overload sets in, hang out at artist-run space Hordaland Kunstsenter and settle down with a new book.

ELSEWHERE

Gunhild Moe, one of the five Momentum 9 curators, is launching an architectural tour through southwest Norway, into the towns of Sand and Sauda, and along the Suldal Valley. Along the way, you’ll spot Peter Zumthor’s Zinc Mine Museum, Energihotellet (which Moe herself runs), the award-winning Høse Bridge in Sand, and more.

Høse Bridge is designed by Rintala Eggertsson Architects.  Photo: © Dag Jenssen

The three-hour route will lead participants along lakes and rivers, over mountains, and past sheep and waterfalls. It’s a great way to see Norway’s natural beauty… and how today’s most talented architectural minds are responding to it.