Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

3rd July 2015

Rob / Munch house
Posted by at 7.34pm | No responses | Out and About

hampo-stortinget

Saturday was my first full day in Oslo. The Pride Parade was due to take place later that day, but before that I decided to start the day by immersing myself in some culture. Oslo has a museum dedicated to the works of one of Norway’s most celebrated artists, Edvard Munch, and it was there that I headed.

The Munch Museum is slightly outside the city centre, which meant the thrilling prospect of a ride on Oslo’s underground system, the T-Bane. There I am, on the right, just before descending into Stortinget station. Look how excited I am!

The T-Bane consists of 6 lines which all converge on a central east-west route beneath Oslo city centre. It was this central section that I was about to ride on, which meant I wouldn’t have to wait too long for a train – any of lines 1-6 would take me where I needed to go.

I walked down the station’s passageways – complete with blue and red wall cladding and corrugated ceilings – to the eastbound platform. A train soon turned up to take me on the short journey to Tøyen. A quick exit, avoiding some slightly dodgy looking characters at the station entrance, and I was on my way to the Munch Museum.

My guide book had advised to get to the museum early to avoid the crowds, but the T-Bane was a little too efficient. I arrived at 9.30, half an hour before the museum was due to open. There were already other people waiting to go in, but rather than queue up immediately I decided to go for a walk and take advantage of the fine weather. The museum is located in Tøyen, a residential area with a small park. Neat rows of apartment buildings lined the streets. It was all quiet apart from a couple of joggers and a woman walking her dog.

Tøyen

Then, a man walking in the opposite direction stopped and tried to engage me in conversation in Norwegian. When I indicated I didn’t understand, he effortlessly switched to English because of course everyone can do that here. I was a little bit wary of his filthy brown jacket, but he chatted amiably, telling me all about his friend in Westbury and his numerous visits to London. It certainly brightened my day a bit. You just earned yourself another 100 niceness points, Norway!

I headed back to the museum, where there were signs of activity – a security guard was putting out rope barriers to deal with the queues, and more people were waiting by the gallery entrance. At 10am on the dot, the doors were opened, and the crowds trooped in.

Munch Museum Munch Museum

Photography wasn’t permitted inside the gallery itself, and there was also a sign exhorting us to talk “in a low voice” in the exhibition.

Early on in my visit, there was a beautiful insight into human behaviour. A sign directed visitors into a small cinema to see an introductory film on Munch’s life. “Watch this film before seeing the rest of the exhibition,” it ordered. Dutifully, my fellow visitors and I filed in and took our seats. “The programme will start at 10.15,” declared the caption on screen.

10.15 came and went, with no sign of the film starting. People started fidgeting. Many watches were checked. A loud American woman in the front row implored her husband to go and find someone. Then, the caption disappeared, to be replaced by… a smart TV menu screen. Oh dear.

There was a lot of tutting, but it was at least 10.25 before someone finally took it upon themselves to fetch a member of staff to coax the machine into life. Well, honestly.

The current exhibition is “Van Gogh + Munch” – a celebration of two artists who never actually met, but whose artistic aims and careers paralleled each other in many respects. I was quite pleased as it tied in with my visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam last year.

Paintings by the two artists are displayed side-by-side; for example, Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone is right next to Munch’s Starry Night, enabling comparisons between the two.

Of course, The Scream is on display (actually, it’s just one of several versions that Munch painted). This is arguably Munch’s best-known work, probably because it inspired Macaulay Culkin’s character in Home Alone (NB: this is a lie).

The Scream and Home Alone

It was all very interesting and inspiring, although I must confess I never quite know how best to appreciate art. What is the appropriate level of time to look at a single painting before moving on to the next? Should you look at them close up or stand back a bit? Does even asking these questions make me a total Philistine in these matters?

In the Museum gift shop, I ended up buying a poster of The Yellow Log, as well as a postcard of Bathing Men – not sure what it was about that picture that appealed to me.

I was very impressed by the Munch Museum. It came about in part thanks to Munch himself, who bequeathed all his remaining works to the city of Oslo upon his death. It’s an impressive collection and the exhibitions (which change a couple of times a year) seem well thought out.

A quick stop in the museum’s café for a sandwich, and then I headed back to Tøyen station to get back into the city centre. It was approaching 1pm, and the Oslo Pride Parade was about to start. I did not want to miss that.

Munch Museum Entrance Munch Museum Café

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