tirsdag 7. april 2009

Everyone feels for the National Gallery by Mari Slaattelid

The proposal to move the National Gallery was until recently just as unthinkable for those in power as it was for the general public. The planned new large museum was to be built at Tullinløka, thereby linking up the National Gallery to the projected new edifice. The present proposal to build at Vestbanen was so spectacular that Parliament and others involved did not fully understand the direct consequence of the decision: that the National Gallery was left out. In order to complete the plans for an entire museum district at Aker Brygge, the irretrievable loss of the National Gallery was glossed over. The 400 000 visitors that make their way up Karl Johan Street to find the National Gallery in the centre of town every year will secure the financial aspect of the planned museum district. The Munch room as well as the paintings of Tidemand and Gude have a popular appeal that is lacking in contemporary art and design. So forget about leaving behind the central part of town with shops and offices and scattered theatres.

Some have argued for a divided solution whereby the old National Gallery can continue its present function. The dynamic Minister of Culture has advised “all those who are concerned” that the debate cannot go on for long. Assurances have been made that the collection will be well looked after, and hints have been dropped about the old edifice being used for cultural purposes in the future. But the campaign to save the National Gallery is not just aimed at preserving the building, nor are we against the decision made in 2003 to merge the museums.
People from the arts and cultural circles are being circumspect and strategic when discussing the present situation. Aftenposten`s editorial looked back from our affluent present on a poorer era`s monument, an interesting perspective that supports a state management lacking in both respect and values. Audun Eckhoff ,the director of the National Gallery, argues that Oslo`s climatic conditions as well as technical challenges pose insurmountable problems. Those who are maneuvering the National Gallery towards the brink are increasing the pressure and Eckhoff must now have his hands full trying to hang on. Perhaps there has not been enough time to get advice from the national gallery in Stockholm ( cost of renovation: a billion kroner), Helsinki or St. Petersburg, all of these buildings being made of brick and built around the same time and at the same latitude as Oslo.

Nearly everyone passing in front of the National Gallery`s blighted façade has signed the campaign`s petition.They understand intuitively that Nidarosdomen, Stortinget , the building at Eidsvoll and the National Gallery are institutions where usage and content give the buildings their significance. The planned move is akin to wiping out traces that can be recognized by people the world over. Newspaper readers are indignant concerning the minister of culture`s arrogance in pushing ahead with his plans. This spontaneous reaction speaks volumes about the value of the National Gallery

Minister Giske describes the motives of the opposition in a misleading way: “ Those who are using the appeal to save the National Gallery as an argument against the merging of the National museums have to admit that their case is a lost one” ( Aftenposten 31.03.09) Or “ If those who are now fighting to save the National Gallery mean the building itself , then they have already won. They can use their efforts for other things. If they are concerned with the future use of the building for new purposes, they have got a strong case “ ( Morgenbladet, week 13, 2009). After a short break given over to the economic aspects, the closing down of the National Gallery is once again a so-called political decision. But then why is the minister being so generous towards any week long arrangement that smacks of well-fed cultural festivities, and why is he so being harsh towards that which he and every Norwegian has inherited in terms of cultural self esteem and continuity, values that are just as invisible to the minister as they are for us all, and the very values which are for him to protect in his capacity as minister of culture.

This treasury of collective memory is here to shape the future of Norwegian rock poets, to mention a group that tends to have the minister`s sympathy. Taking away Europe`s common history from poets and others is not just irresponsible and disloyal: this point may be proven already in the forth coming Autumn election.

Mari Slaattelid
Visual artist

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