Modern Art in Northern Europe, 1918-1931
Installation shot: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Archive
The title of the exhibition is taken from the 1918 poem La Panama ou les Aventures de mes Sept Oncles (Panama, or the Adventures of My Seven Uncles) by Blaise Cendrars. The poem describes a spirit of an age marked by revolution, restlessness and desire to explore, but also an era of optimism inspired by science and technology in rapid development.
Cross-pollination between the Baltic and Scandinavian countries is taken for granted today. This exhibition focuses on a time when things were different, but when there was nevertheless a willingness to participate in a larger, European fellowship of artists and a great need to connect with international movements of art. This exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with a shared Northern European history, seen from a new perspective.
The artists presented here became familiar with modern art through stays in Berlin and Paris, and avant-garde journals and exhibitions worldwide. They had teachers like Fernand Léger, Amédée Ozenfant and André Lhote, but also played an active part themselves in the international art world in the 20th century. They participated in a number of important exhibitions and events in France, Italy, Germany, the Soviet Union, Central Europe and the USA. However, even if the artists quickly captured the international art scene with their own and unique contributions, many of them were not included in the main narrative of modern art, and therefore are not well recognized today.
The starting point of the exhibition is to show how each individual artist contributed to the art scene of the time, regionally and internationally, with his or her own unique input. The artists in the exhibition are organized under the rubric of the Baltic and Scandinavian regions they came from to give the public the opportunity to compare the various expressions. The exhibition concludes with a presentation showing how art developed towards a universal expression, described as “art for art's sake” – a self sufficient and non-referential abstract art consisting of planes and colors.