On top of Oslo: Ekebergparken’s sculptures delight
Cyclists, hikers, tourists, and families with backpacks filled with hot drinks all love the sculpture park at Ekeberg, an area with heavy cultural and historical value in a geologically interesting area of 5,000- to 6,000-year-old petroglyphs. This is the hill painter Edvard Munch used as inspiration for Norway’s most famous painting, “Scream.” A richly illustrated book about the park has recently become available, “parking the critics of the park,” as newspaper Aftenposten writes.
Visitors to the park are offered a unique art experience in close proximity with Ekeberg’s landscape. The sculptures seem not to be visually intrusive. The nature and art has made the area accessible in a new way. The art invites participation.
The sculpture and National Heritage park opened on September 26, 2013. Norwegians and visitors alike meet over accessible art by Auguste Rodin, Louise Bourgeois, James Turrell, Dan Graham, Salvador Dalí, and Norwegian artists Knut Steen, Hilde Mæhlum, Per Ung, Per Inge Bjørlo, Dyre Vaa, and Aase Texmon Rygh.
Yet inhabitants of Oslo were not convinced about accepting the gift of a NOK 350 million sculpture park when the much-debated project began.
The man most responsible for the park’s creation, Christian Ringnes, a businessman and eloquent art lover with a taste for the burlesque, has many times articulated his thoughts about woman as a supernatural object. “Women are more complicated than men, they have more mysteries and depth,” he explained in connection with the park’s Dalí sculpture. “Venus de Milo aux tiroir,” by Salvador Dalí, both amazes and inspires curiosity.
The park can nevertheless be interpreted individually, independent of the founder’s intentions.
One of its most striking pieces is “Inner room VI—the life cycle,” by Per Inge Bjørlo, a work of art you can move into, talk in and out of, listen to—and which is reminiscent of a uterus. Close by is Sarah Sze’s wood and steel sculpture “Still life with landscape,” with birdhouses disconnected from the trees mounting in the background. James Turrell’s “Ekeberg Skyspace” lies under a water reservoir further along and is a 1.5-hour experience of light, color, and space—not to mention being a room of silence.
The leaves, the sunset, the sound of the tram, children’s laughter, and a ship moving slowly in the background all become part of Ekebergparken’s art experience.
There have been screams from the park in the past. Munch’s personal physician once lived in what is now a charming restaurant, Karlsborg Spiseforretning, with a bakery. It’s a welcome offering for those seeking a homey experience rather than heavy functionalism of the higher-end Ekeberg Restaurant higher up the hillside.
And lest anyone think the sculpture park’s founder has no sense of humor, much of the park’s criticisms have been used to wallpaper the restrooms.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 25, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.