Öffnungsreden Huntenkunst 2012
Speech by the Ambassador of Norway, The Hague
The Huntekunst Art Festival will this year focus on contributions from Norwegian contemporary artists. We hope that everyone who visits the festival will have a great experience and grow to appreciate the contemporary art exhibited by a multitude of excellent artists – not only from Norway - but also from a number of other countries, working in a number of different styles.
The art scene has in recent years been characterised by ever increasing globalisation. We see this in Norway as well, as more Norwegian artists are associating their work with the international art scene, working within the same artistic idiom and discussing the same problems that their colleagues are discussing the world over. We get energy and impulses from foreign students who study art at our academies and universities and from artists who visit on programmes organized by art institutions and studio collectives around the country. Moreover, many Norwegian artists are finding inspiration outside our national borders.
Aided by government scholarships and grant schemes, our artists are able to realise exhibitions and carry out long-term stays to live and work in creative environments in foreign countries where their work is being noticed.
Huntenkunst exists to stimulate the interchange of ideas and creativity among artists from all over Europe, and to create a space where new ideas can blossom across national borders.
The increasing volume of exchanges of this nature makes it difficult to clearly define Norwegian contemporary art. However, from looking at Norwegian art history, it clear that the paint medium has long enjoyed a prominent standing. J. C. Dahl from Bergen is generally considered to be Norway's first painter – with his distinctive portrayals of Norwegian landscapes dating from the first half of the 1800s. Towards the end of the same century, Edvard Munch became known for his expressive brushstrokes and symbolic motives, which never cease to be modern. Figurative painting was popular in the Norwegian art scene until the mid-1900s, not in the least due to the work being done by a group of Scandinavian artists who had studied under Matisse, and who since had a great influence on the art scene back home. From the 1950s onwards the art of painting in Norway was characterised by abstraction - yet we are currently seeing artists expressing themselves, and making a name for themselves, within both of these painterly languages. Many of the Norwegian contributors at this year's Huntenkunst have chosen painting as their primary form of expression, illustrating by this that the tradition of exploring the boundaries of painting as a medium is quite alive within contemporary Norwegian art.
Many of the artists participating in this year's festival do not however work exclusively with paint and canvas; they utilise a number of different techniques and work across various media. This is representative of the contemporary art scene, where the use of modern art forms such as photography, installation, video, sound and performance has exploded since the 1990s. These pieces are often fleeting and process-based expressions that require more work to document and preserve. Establishing archives to store works of this type is now an important aspect of Norwegian cultural management and administration. The interaction between the artwork and its physical surroundings has become an important theme in many of these newer forms of expression, which has led many contemporary artists to work with spatial installations and site-specific works, both inside and outside the gallery. In Norway, the agency known as Public Art Norway (KORO) is an important contractor of art projects placed by public buildings and in outdoor spaces. The works that KORO has initiated amount to Norway's largest art collection, but this collection is built up on the principle that everyone should have the opportunity to experience contemporary art, so these works are spread around the country in public buildings like hospitals, schools, office buildings that are open to the public and easily accessible around all of Norway.
It is said that in recent decades there has been an institutionalisation and professionalisation of Norwegian contemporary art. The Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 1990, and increasingly the roles of curator and exhibit producer have gained greater influence within the art profession. At the same time, a number of artists have grown more aware of the structures that surround art, and they consequently initiate and participate in discussions about this framework. The institutions responsible for Norwegian art education have introduced art theory as an important part of students’ curriculum. Further, many artists are working conceptually and are critical of institutions, and we see a rising tendency among artists to apply a research-based approach in their work; in their artworks and in what they write about art, and while lecturing or participating in seminars. Many Norwegian artists have also chosen to define how and when their artwork will be presented in recent years by thwarting the power of galleries, exhibitors and institutions and participating in artist-run collectives and galleries found in the country's largest cities. The artists who participate in Huntenkunst are given an important role in preparing the exhibition. Preparing the presentation of one's own works at the festival is important for many Norwegian contemporary artists, as they want to lay the foundation for how their work is shown and communicated.
I hope the festival is able to provide you with an impression of contemporary art and contemporary artists, and we hope our Norwegian contributors are able to inspire interest for Norway and Norwegian culture.
Anniken Ramberg Krutnes
Ambassador of Norway, The Hague