Norway is a big (and free!) outdoor art exhibition. Look up and around and enjoy a dense collection of spray-painted glory. Street art enthusiast and author Martin Berdahl Aamundsen guides you through some of the hot spots.
About Martin Berdahl Aamundsen
Oslo-based Martin Berdahl Aamundsen is a full-time street art enthusiast and author of a handful of critically acclaimed street art books. In 2007 Berdahl Aamundsen started Kontur, a publishing house that focuses on subcultures. Some of Berdahl Aamundsen’s books include:
Graff Wars: Graffiti inspired by the Star Wars universe (2010)
Street Art Norway Vol. I (2010)
Street Art Norway Vol. II (2012)
Stencil Wars: The ultimate book of Star Wars inspired (2012)
Street art Bergen (2014)
Nora and the little blue rabbit (2016)
Norway is more colourful than ever! All over the country, from remote spots above the Arctic Circle to bustling neighbourhoods in the largest cities, you can witness a vast variety of walls and corners adorned with stunning street art.
With artists like Dolk, Pøbel, Martin Whatson, and DOT DOT DOT – to mention a few – the Norwegian street art scene has in recent years gone from an anonymous existence to gaining international recognition.
“Norway is a must-visit destination for street art fans. The local artists are of a high calibre, and the street art that can be seen throughout the country holds an international standard”, says Berdahl Aamundsen.
“There is more acceptance for street art than ever.”
But wait, what happened? For a long time, Norway fought tooth and nail against street art. Murals and graffiti walls were removed as soon as they saw the light of day, and street artists were punished with heavy fines. Today, however, many cities allocate money to street art projects.
“The attitude towards street art has unquestionably changed. In Oslo, for instance, it used to be zero tolerance for street art. In recent years, however, the city has worked hard to gain a reputation as a ‘street art city’. Urban street art can be seen in every nook and cranny of the city, and new pieces are constantly popping up. There is more acceptance for street art than ever”, says Berdahl Aamundsen.
What is unique about street art as an art form?
“The power lies in the way it communicates – that it unfolds in the public space. Street art often mirrors society at the time it’s created, and it creates an immediate reaction there and then.”
What are the hot spots?
“There has been a big street art scene in Bergen for several years, and the city attracts street artists from all over the country. I will argue that this is where you find some of the most impressive artworks – especially when it comes to stencil art.”
In fact, Bergen is home to many of Norway’s most famous street artists, such as Dolk, AFK, and TEG.
“Stavanger is another highlight, home to several amazing walls created by both international and local public art practitioners. This is where Pøbel, one of the most internationally recognized Norwegian street artists, comes from. A good thing about the street art in Stavanger is that everything is situated within a 10-minute walk, making it easy to explore. Stavanger is also the host of the annual Nuart street art festival, which attracts the best public art practitioners in the world. During the festival, the whole city turns into an amusement park for street art enthusiasts”, says Berdahl Aamundsen enthusiastically.
Ever since it was arranged for the first time in 2001, the Nuart street art festival has held its position as the world’s leading street art festival. During the whole month of September, street art buffs from all over the world can enjoy a series of citywide exhibitions, events, performances, and workshops.
If you want to learn more about how Stavanger became one of the world’s leading street art destinations, you can join one of Nuart’s street art walking tours.
“In Oslo, you can enjoy a huge variety of urban street art – everything from graffiti to stencil works and muralism. Brenneriveien, Norway’s first street art destination, is definitely worth checking out. This is where it all started back in the 90s. Today, the whole area is like a constantly changing virtual art gallery. The neighbourhood of Tøyen, in the central-eastern part of Oslo, is also a colourful goodie.”
Actually, Tøyen aims at becoming Scandinavia’s largest outdoor gallery before the Munch Museum leaves the area in 2021.
But street art can also be found outside the biggest cities?
“Definitely. One of the coolest projects ever is “Ghetto spedalsk” (Ghetto leprous), a project by Dolk and Pøbel, where they decorated abandoned buildings in the Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway.”
The project aimed at drawing attention to the depopulation and decay in rural parts of Lofoten, and it became one of the most talked-about art projects in Norway in the last decade.
Far south in Norway lies the town of Flekkefjord – another gem for street art enthusiasts. Here, in an area called the Dutch quarter (Hollanderbyen), you can enjoy a rare mix of old, white wooden houses and colorful murals and pieces of graffiti.
What is your favourite piece of street art in Norway?
“That’s a tricky one, but I have to say that ‘The treasure hunter’ by Inti in Tøyen in Oslo is nothing but a masterpiece. The technical skills that are required to make something like that are hard to grasp. But one of the cool things about street art is that it emerges and disappears all the time. Nothing makes me happier than discovering a new piece of street art on my way to work. Street art adds colour to the city. What’s not to like about that?”, concludes Berdahl Aamundsen.
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