Oslo scraps plan to move Munch Museum next to opera

The city of Oslo on Thursday scrapped plans to move the Munch Museum, which holds the world's largest collection of works by expressionist master Edvard Munch, to a new spot near the new opera house.

The opposition populist right and several left-wing parties, which together hold a majority on the city council, said studies would instead be undertaken to see if the museum could stay in its current location with some remodeling and a possible expansion, or whether it would be moved to become part of the National Gallery.

The results of the studies are to be published next year.

Prior to municipal elections in September, the previous city council had decided in 2008 to move the Munch Museum into a new building housing another museum and a library.

The building was to be constructed near Oslo's new opera house, a futuristic structure that has become an architectural landmark for the city on the banks of the Oslo fjord.

The idea was to create a cultural centre to be inaugurated in 2014, when Norway will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the signing of its constitution.

But the opposition and left parties objected to the cost and the architecture of the building, among other things.

When Munch died in 1944 at the age of 80, he left around 1,100 paintings, 15,500 prints, 4,700 sketches and six sculptures to the city of Oslo.

The Munch Museum made headlines when masterpieces "The Scream" and "Madonna" were grabbed in a daring 2004 heist only to be retrieved two years later.

It has since been renovated and undergone a security overhaul, and is today home to more than half of those paintings and all of the prints.

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.