Nuart Festival transforms Stavanger
Norwegian American Weekly
Historic Stavanger attracts contemporary culture enthusiasts with progressive street art festival
The quaint Norwegian town of Stavanger acts as a cultural hub, attracting visitors with a diverse array of interests. Stavanger is acclaimed for its historical wooden houses, culinary delights, success in the oil and gas industry, cultural museums, high-quality education and research, and more recently—world class street art. In 2008, the region was proudly named the European Capital of Culture for its internationality and cultural diversity.
The Nuart Festival promotes street artists each year for a month-long, citywide art exhibit. Designed to encourage debate on the definition of art, the not-for-profit festival continues to redefine contemporary culture. Nuart “follows the ethos behind the Nu teams desire to provide an annual platform for national and international artists who operate outside of traditional systems,” according to nuartfesival.no.
This year, there are 16 international street artists participating in Stavanger, representing the best of the world’s progressive public artists. These acclaimed artists come from Norway, Italy, Spain, Poland, Iran, the U.S., France, and Portugal. The three Norwegians are Dot Dot Dot, an anonymous stencil artist from Oslo; Strøk (Anders Gjennestad), a sculptor creating surreal visual poetry with shadow; and Martin Whatson, a stencil artist seeking to portray beauty in the ugly.
The festival began on Thursday, September 4, and will continue through October 12. During this month, various sites scattered throughout Stavanger’s city center will evolve into artworks. The Polish artist M-City (Mariusz Waras) launched the first piece of the festival, “Ocean Art.” M-City used 2,150 square feet of an offshore supply vessel as his canvas. “The project was a collaboration between Nuart and the owner Atlantic Offshore and took place in the public space of the harbor this week. Highlighting Stavanger as a leading city within the European street art landscape and as an offshore capital, M-City combined jagged mountain tops and mechanical wheels that link the ship to its base in Western Norway and its foundation on the union between nature and technology,” explains nuartfestival.no.
For the art enthusiast hoping to catch a glimpse of each piece, there is a link to Google Maps available on nuartfestival.no pinpointing each artist’s location. The festival also created its own iPhone app using Geo Street Art that helps viewers locate each artist.
While wandering from site to site, guests to Stavanger are sure to get a good feel for the city center. It is a great way to explore the city and scope out activities and must-sees for the rest of one’s stay.
Where to stay
This year, Scandia Stavanger City is the official hotel for the Nuart Festival. Scandia Stavanger City is somewhat of a cultural site itself, featuring art by Martin Whatson, music by top electronic musicians, and a popular restaurant and bar. This modern hotel opened in April, and is conveniently located right in the city center. The location is ideal for visitors planning to spend their days wandering around Stavanger, as it is within walking distance of the Nuart exhibits, the harbor, restaurants, and shops.
What to eat
Boasting great culinary diversity, Stavanger is gaining prominence as a destination for foodies. You’ll have no trouble finding a delicious meal here. Two of the most popular restaurants in the area include Tango Bar & Kjøkken and Sjøhuset Skagen. Tango is the masterpiece of Norwegian chef Kjartan Skjelde and sits right on the water while Sjøhuset Skagen is located in a historic building in the city center. For a more extensive look at Stavanger’s food, visit in July for the Gladmat festival—Scandinavia’s largest culinary festival.
For tourists wanting to explore even more art—but maybe more traditional works than the Nuart pieces—there’s always the Stavanger Art Museum. This museum features artwork dating from the 1800’s to the present by both international and local artists. Contemporary art enthusiasts should also check out Antony Gormley’s “Broken Column,” a sculpture composed of 23 iron figures placed around Stavanger. Interestingly, each piece of the sculpture resembles the human form and measures 6’ 4” tall. The “Broken Column” scavenger hunt will take you to shops, museums, schools, and even in the water!
If you’re attending Nuart and also share an interest in contemporary music, look for the Numusic Festival. Numusic is Norway’s underground electronic music festival and takes place the same weekend that Nuart begins. 2014 marks the 15th year of this dynamic event.
Tourists will also want to take a walk over to Gamle Stavanger to see the historic white-painted wooden houses dating back hundreds of years. Although this nostalgic part of town may seem a far cry from the wild street art of the Nuart Festival, it similarly represents a moment in the culture of Stavanger. If you’re intrigued by thoughts of historic Stavanger, the Norwegian Canning Museum is just a few steps away, where you can learn about the importance of the canning industry in this region.
For a more extensive look into Stavanger’s past, visit Stavanger Museum of Cultural History. The exhibit, “From Ancient Landscape to Oil Town” explores Stavanger’s history from 1125 to 1995.
From Stavanger, you can visit sandy beaches, take a trip right out of the city to hike, or travel onward to the heart of Fjord Norway. Stavanger has an airport, as well as train and bus access to Norway’s other top tourist destinations. God reise!
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 12, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.