Norway is in the middle of a cultural building boom, with two significant projects in the capital Oslo due for completion next year – the National Museum will become the Nordic region’s largest museum when it is unveiled in the autumn, while the Munch Museum will move into a new home in the spring.
But beating both these venues in the race to open is The Twist, 40 miles north of Oslo. It was unveiled in September at a site called Kistefos and has been developed by Norwegian businessman and art collector Christen Sveaas.
The building, while providing a large space to show art, has another key function – it acts as a bridge, allowing visitors to cross the Randselva river from one side of a sculpture park to the other. The museum’s name comes from the twist that sits in the middle of the building, above the water.
The park features nearly 50 works dotted about the wooded landscape. International artists such as Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg, Marc Quinn, Olafur Eliasson and Yayoi Kusama are represented, as are several Norwegian artists. New works by Elmgreen & Dragset, Giuseppe Penone and Tony Oursler were added to coincide with the opening of The Twist.
Visitors can access the venue from either end. From the south side of the river, entry is via a double-height space that has sightlines through the entire building. From the north end, visitors arrive in a panoramic space with views of the surrounding landscape.
The museum was designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, a Danish architecture practice that has worked on several cultural projects, including the M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark in Helsingør.
The Twist features a changing programme of exhibitions, some of which will include works owned by Sveaas. The museum’s first show is a good example. It paired the work of two British artists – the late painter and printmaker Howard Hodgkin and Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed.
The exhibition featured works from public and private collections, including nine Hodgkin works owned by Sveaas. Other lenders included the British Council Collection, Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery, and Tate and National Galleries of Scotland through their joint ownership of the Artist Rooms works.
Kistefos was created in 1996 by Sveaas on the former site of his family’s wood-pulp business, which ran from 1889 to the mid-1950s. The mill no longer operates but is now an industrial museum that tells visitors about the lives of those who worked on the site.
Kistefos is open from May to November, although it is possible to visit the sculpture park at other times. Christen Sveaas owns the Kistefos site.
Why did you decide to build the museum?
Christen Sveaas: We have been exhibiting contemporary art for a decade or so, but we didn’t have the premises that could satisfy the normal needs of a museum. We had wanted a new museum for more than 20 years and we even had plans drawn up, but in 2001-02, there was the dotcom crisis and I lost a lot of money, and decided not to do it.
It took years to start the project again, and then we thought the building that had been designed for us was not as modern as we wanted it. So we went to a few other architects, including Bjarke Ingels, and here we are.
How does the architecture reflect what the museum is trying to achieve?
First, this is a unique sculptural building – you have not seen it in the world before. This is the prerequisite for the sculptures here – they have to be site specific and unique, and the new building is the same. Second, this is a small building, which I wanted, because this is not a museum for my art collection – it’s a bit too small for that – this is a building for exhibiting contemporary art.
What type of visitors will come to the museum?
We have so many things here – the original factory, sculpture park, beautiful and dramatic natural surroundings and this new building. So, if you are looking for a nice tour in the woods, why not come here?
How is contemporary art viewed in Norway?
In the past 10 years, there has been strong growth in interest, not least because of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, which has a large collection. We now have at least 25 commercial art galleries in Oslo. Ten years ago, we had hardly any.
Contemporary art is interesting, it is nice to have, it is challenging and it is much more fun to collect than old landscapes – and most of the old masterpieces are already in museums. Not all people like contemporary art, and you are not supposed to like everything. I don’t like everything, but I am relaxed about that.
What is the most innovative aspect of the project?
To build something like this as a bridge over a river, and with the twist – this is an architectural wonder in itself. I could never have thought of that, so I think it is fabulous.
- Cost 200 million NOK (£17.1m)
- Architect Bjarke Ingels Group
- Main contractor Bladt Industries
- Admission Adult 150 NOK (£12.80); children free