Let Audun Eckhoff, one of Norway’s leading connoisseurs, guide you through a selection of the most important art museums in Norway.
For eight years, Audun Eckhoff was the director of Norway’s National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, a museum that conveys the country’s most extensive collections of art, architecture, and design in several venues. Eckhoff has a long career in the arts, earlier as director for the Bergen Art Museum and curator at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Oslo.
Ever since the Viking Period, Norway has given the world art and architecture, ranging from wooden stave churches to the expressionist paintings of Edvard Munch.
Today, you can visit exquisite fine art museums all over the country.
Address: Universitetsgata 13, Oslo
Educate yourself on Norwegian and international art through Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures from antiquity to 1950. Nasjonalgalleriet in Oslo shows both temporary exhibitions and the permanent collection Dance of Life. Some of the highlights include several of Edvard Munch’s most important paintings, including iconic versions of “Scream” and “Madonna”, as well as Tidemand and Gude’s “Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord” and Harald Sohlberg’s “Winter Night in the Mountains”. International works of art include paintings by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet. And if you need a break and a proper meal, the French Salon is one of the gallery’s most lavish rooms, with its polished stucco and gilded ornamentation.
National Museum – Architecture
Address: Bankplassen 3, Oslo
Lovers of architecture can explore both contemporary architecture and historical themes in a building that juxtaposes classicism and modernist architecture. With important architects like Christian Heinrich Grosch, Bjercke and Eliassen, Sverre Fehn, Arne Korsmo, Steven Holl and Snøhetta, the permanent exhibition in Nasjonalmuseet – Arkitektur focuses on the idea as the core of all architecture. The museum shop offers literature on architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design, as well as gift items. In Grosch Bistro you can enjoy tasty dishes based on seasonal ingredients in architectural surroundings, or you can head outside to the Bankplassen square and have a cold beer and a meal in one of several cafes or restaurants, surrounded by architecture from the 1800s and 1900s.
Between the Oslofjord and the forests lies Oslo, Norway’s capital and largest city, with its vibrant social scene and special combination of nature experiences and city life.
Address: Tøyengata 53, Oslo
The Munchmuseet in Oslo manages the great collection of Edvard Munch’s paintings, drawings, prints, and other material the artist left to the municipality of Oslo after his death. Here, you get to see famous motifs like “The Scream”, “Madonna”, “Vampire”, and “Anxiety”. The museum shows both selected works from the artist and temporary exhibitions of other artists from Munch’s time and up until today, in parallel or in contrast to Munch’s own works. As the museum is situated close to both the park Tøyenparken and the Natural History Museum and Botanical garden, you can enjoy your lunch and coffee from Stockfleths’ Coffee Shop outdoors.
After having digested the impressive collection of Munch’s works at the Munch Museum in Tøyen, perhaps it’s time to test your voice at the place where he was inspired to paint the Scream, or to visit some of the places around the capital where he sought the peace of mind he never found in the big city?
Astrup Fearnley Museet
Address: Strandpromenaden 2, Oslo
At Tjuvholmen in the centre of Oslo, in a characteristic building designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, you’ll find the Astrup Fearnley Museet, a private museum of contemporary art and one of the most important art institutions in Oslo. Here, you can enjoy temporary exhibitions of Norwegian, European, and American contemporary art, as well as a large collection of Norwegian and foreign art from the 1960s to the present. Amongst the highlights of the museum’s permanent collection is Anselm Kiefer’s “Zweistromland”, a monumental sculpture in which the dark origin of civilization is symbolized by a huge shelf of books in lead, glass, and other materials. The museum is surrounded by a beautiful sculpture park which ends up on a kid-friendly beach. Both the museum shop and the museum bar Vingen is also well worth a visit.
The New York Times described Oslo as “ready to shine” on their list of top places to visit in 2013. Why? In part because of the island of Tjuvholmen and the spectacular new Astrup Fearnley Museum.
Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Address: Sonja Henies vei 31, Høvikodden
The Henie Onstad Kunstsenter at Høvikodden just outside of Oslo was founded in 1968 by figure skating legend and Hollywood actor Sonja Henie and her husband, shipping magnate and art collector Niels Onstad. The museum shows temporary exhibitions of Norwegian and international modernism and contemporary art, and has an extensive music and performance program. In addition, the centre has several permanent collections, amongst them collages and landscape paintings by German Dada artist Kurt Schwitters. The museum is beautifully located by the Oslofjord and is surrounded by a vast sculpture park. When you’ve seen all the art you can digest in a day, why not go for a swim in the fjord, followed by a delicious meal at the renowned restaurant Bølgen & Moi?
Lillehammer Art Museum
Stortorget 2, Lillehammer
Lillehammer Kunstmuseum is housed in a building originally designed by government building architect Erling Viksjø in 1963, but got its modern look from Snøhetta’s distinctive extension from 1994 and Bård Breivik’s new facade from 2016. The museum’s permanent collection comprises Norwegian visual art from the 1800s until today. In a special section you can see a large collection of Jakob Weidemann, central to the development of abstract painting in Norway in the 1960s. The Museum’s temporary exhibition program is devoted to artists from the region and other important Norwegian and international artists. Outside, the Art Garden is a great place to relax in the sun with a book or a picnic lunch.
The Royal Modum Blaafarveværk
and the Cobalt Mines
Address: Koboltveien 11, Åmot
In 1773, the Royal Modum Blaafarveværk was established to extract cobalt from the mines at Modum. The cobalt was to be used to make the cobalt blue dye for the world’s porcelain and glass industries. Today, Blaafarveværket consists of eight kilometres of art, culture and nature experiences where you can see temporary exhibitions of Norwegian artists such as Edvard Munch, Harriet Backer, Christian Krogh, and Kjell Nupen. Blaafarveværket has the country’s largest collection of Theodor Kittelsen’s interpretations of witchcraft and nature, in the form of carved furniture, oil paintings, watercolours and drawings. In Nyfossum, a grand building in Empire style, you can enjoy Ida Lorentzen’s pastels. In addition to art, Blaafarveværket offers a subterranean adventure in the cobalt mines, and a lively and popular children’s farm.
Address: Konnerudgata 7, Drammen
40 minutes from Oslo, Drammens Museum displays a broad cultural history of material objects, buildings and art from ancient and modern times. Explore the collections of Nøstetangen glass, Baroque silver, ceramics from the 1700s, furniture, textiles, interiors, religious art, and folk art, as well as the museum’s permanent art and design collection. In the museum park, you can visit a country villa from the late 1700s, in addition to several timber buildings from Hallingdal and the newer Lyche Pavilion. Here you can study temporary exhibitions of arts and crafts, as well as a permanent exhibition of key Norwegian painters.
Address: Kommandørkaptein Klincks vei 7, Karljohansvern, Horten
Preus Museum on idyllic Karljohansvern in Horten is a must for photo and history buffs. Here, you can explore the large collection of photographs, photographic equipment and photo books, all wrapped in a building redecorated by architect Sverre Fehn. The museum’s permanent collection shows the technical development from the camera obscura to the current mobile cameras, and the corresponding development of the photograph itself. Renown postmodernist photographers like Thomas Struth and Cindy Sherman are part of the collection. You can also enjoy smaller collections consisting of photographs of Norwegian performance and process art and fashion photography from 1950 until today. Central Norwegian photographers like Anders Beer Wilse, Elisabeth Meyer, Morten Krogvold, Tom Sandberg and Dag Alveng is also represented with significant works.
Haugar Vestfold Art Museum
Address: Gråbrødregaten 17, Tønsberg
Situated in the old Maritime College in Tønsberg city centre and close to the old “Haugating”, Haugar Kunstmuseum is a striking sight. The brick buildings from the early 1900s are designed by architects Bjerke and Eliassen. The facade depicts people mariners might expect to meet on their voyages. The museum’s collection includes the American pop artist Andy Warhol’s series of paintings containing images from Edvard Munch’s best known lithographs, in addition to artwork signed by Peder Balke, Anna-Eva Bergman, Odd Nerdrum, Bjarne Melgaard and several of Kjartan Slettemark’s famous Nixon Visions.
Like much of Norway, the eastern part of the country is a region of contrasts. On the one hand you have Oslo, the fastest-growing capital in Europe. The northern and western parts of the region, however, are dominated by mountains and glaciers. To the east, you have a cluster of picturesque small towns near the Swedish border.
SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum
Address: Skippergata 24B, Kristiansand
In the coastal city of Kristiansand in Southern Norway, the art museum Sørlandets Kunstmuseum shows a number of key Norwegian artists from the 1800s, like Johan Christian Dahl, Frits Thaulow, Christian Krohg, Oda Krohg and Edvard Munch. The museum also displays many artists from the 20th century, some with special attachment to the region, amongst them Leonard Rickhard and Kjell Nupen. The collection shows both scenes from Southern Norway and textiles and craft-based art by artists from the region. After your visit, you should step by the museum café, which claims to have the best coffee in the city.
Stavanger Museum of Fine Arts
Address: Henrik Ibsensgate 55, Stavanger
Stavanger Kunstmuseum shows work ranging from paintings from the 1800s to contemporary art. The collection includes more than 70 pieces of Lars Hertervig’s landscape paintings of Norwegian nature, in addition to work by other renown Norwegian artists. The museum, which is part of Museum Stavanger (MUST) also has a large collection of art made by the interwar generation and contains work and archival material by amongst others Arne Ekeland, Reidar Aulie and Alexander Schulz. In addition to this, the museum houses Jan Groth’s collection, which includes Norwegian and international art from the 1960s until today.
The Art Nouveau Centre & The Art Museum KUBE
Address: Apotekergata 16, Ålesund
Kunstmuseet KUBE in Ålesund documents and conveys everything from art and architecture to design and arts and crafts. The museum is situated in an old bank building dating from 1905 and is linked to Jugendstilsenteret. The centre’s permanent collection consists of beautiful objects and art nouveau interiors, mirroring the style in Europe, Norway and Ålesund around year 1900.
KODE Art Museum of Bergen
Address: Rasmus Meyers allé 3, 7 and 9, Bergen
In Bergen, you can visit the largest art museum outside of Oslo, situated in four different buildings throughout the city. KODE is actually one of Scandinavia’s largest museums for art, craft, design and music, and combines art museums and composers’ homes, contemporary art, historical objects, concerts, and parklands. The Rasmus Meyer Collection shows many of Edvard Munch’s major works, amongst them “Evening on Karl Johan Street” and “Woman in Three Stages”. In addition to important Norwegian art, the museum exhibits significant works by Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso and many others of the 20th century’s most renowned artists. The Ole Bull Museum Lysøen, Harald Sæverud Museum Siljustøl and Edvard Grieg Museum Troldhaugen are part of KODE and represent a truly distinctive collection of composers’ homes. These museums organize more than 400 concerts annually.
Pictures of Fjord Norway reveal stunning scenery with deep blue fjords, flowing waterfalls and sharp, snow-capped mountains that tower high above the water. Formed during the Ice Age, this characteristic landscape hasn’t changed a great deal since the time when people started to live there.
Trondheim Art Museum
Address: Bispegata 7B and Trenerys gate 9, Trondheim
With more than 4,000 works of art, Trondheim Kunstmuseum features the country’s third largest public collection of Norwegian art after 1850. The museum also shows temporary exhibitions that covers the past, near past, and present, and focuses on a wide range of events where the visual arts is challenged and enriched by music, literature, guided tours, and performances. In addition to this, the museum presents exhibitions of work by Norwegian artists Håkon Bleken and Inger Sitter in the building Gråmølna, the museum’s arena for contemporary art.
Address: Munkegata 3–7, Trondheim
Also in Trondheim lies Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, a national museum of decorative arts and design that displays furniture, silver, glass, textiles and ceramics from the 1400s until today. The museum is the only one in Norway with a permanent exhibition of Japanese handicrafts and textiles. With a specially designed interior signed by the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde and the Danish architect Finn Juhl, Nordenfjeldske’s first floor is a mix of art nouveau and Scandinavian design. Hannah Ryggen’s political tapestry, a samurai armour from the Edo period and beautiful Japanese belt buttons, in addition to an extensive art nouveau collection, are amongst the thousands of treasures you can see in the museum.
The major city of Trondheim sports many great attractions, amongst them the Nidarosdomen Cathedral. But Trøndelag in the middle of Norway also has seven national parks, one of the country’s largest mountain ranges Dovrefjell, and a whole area dedicated to local food.
Northern Norway Art Museum
Address: Sjøgata 1, Tromsø
In Tromsø, you can explore art and crafts with ties to Northern Norway, from the 1800s and up until today. Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum’s permanent collection consists of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, textiles, and handicrafts. Selected works from the collection are on display throughout the museum’s second floor, ranging from Romanticism to the present day, with artists Peder Balke, Adelsteen Normann, Sámi artist John Savio, Anna-Eva Bergman, Olav Christopher Jenssen, and David Hockney.
Northern Norway is by far the largest and most sparsely populated part of mainland Norway, and covers more than a third of the country. It stretches from the idyllic Helgeland region in the south, to mainland Europe’s northernmost point near the North Cape.
There is no need to wait until you’re here to find out what you’d like to see.