Issue Number: 117
Renzo Piano has built Astrup Fearnley Museum a new home, set to be a star attraction for Oslo. Hugh Pearman finds out why
Oslo has a new contemporary art complex designed by Honorary RA Renzo Piano. The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art has moved house to a site overlooking Oslo Fjord, acting as the cultural element of a redevelopment of former shipyards that began in the 1990s.
The Astrup Fearnley, by Renzo Piano Hon RA. Photo Nic Lehoux. The privately-owned museum, which cost in the region of £70m, comprises three separate buildings: two on one side of a canal, and one on the other that looks out over a sculpture garden and the fjord beyond. The museum even has its own specially designed swimming beach. Timber clad, the three parts (housing permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and offices) are united by bridges and a curved glass roof, recalling sailing ships. The maritime location is appropriate: for the Astrups and the Fearnleys are branches of the same wealthy Norwegian shipping dynasty, descended from a Yorkshire family that included Thomas Fearnley (1802-42) a noted Romantic painter.
The foundation has amassed its contemporary collection over the past 30 years, and first opened its doors to the public elsewhere in town in 1993. Its new home – which Piano describes as ‘a little city’ – has large holdings of contemporary American art, including Matthew Barney, and Hon RAs Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman. The opening show, which draws entirely on the collection, is also strong in Damien Hirst. All in all, a good excuse to visit this impressive Nordic city.