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Art Museums in Oslo: 20 Great Places for Art in Oslo

    The definitive guide to Art Museums in Oslo: discover the thriving art scene of Norway’s capital city with a journey through its creative heart. Art in Oslo can be found in many places and in different forms: renowned museums, outdoor sculpture parks, contemporary art galleries, and a long list of art venues. While art-based travel has traditionally been linked to countries like France, Spain, and Italy, the cultural landscape of Scandinavia is quietly asserting its presence.

    The recent inauguration of two flagship museums has firmly positioned Oslo on the global art map, shedding its reputation solely as a winter wonderland. This new artistic wave, complemented by an elegant modern library and an array of sculpture parks, underscores the ongoing evolution of Oslo and its waterfront. Whether you’re a true connoisseur, a seeker of beauty, or just an enthusiast of intriguing visuals, Oslo offers an array of art experiences to captivate your senses.

    Dive into the city’s galleries and encounter a spectrum of works, from the iconic brushstrokes of Edvard Munch to thought-provoking temporary art venues. The artistic heritage of notable figures like Edvard Munch, Henrik Ibsen and Sigrid Undset intertwines deeply with the Oslo region. Trace the steps of these renowned artists as you explore their homes, connecting with the environments that inspired masterpieces like “The Scream”. Edvard Munch grew up in Oslo and left an indelible mark on the city’s artistic soul. From galleries and museums to sculpture parks, the Norwegian capital’s captivating narrative as a creative hub in Scandinavia comes to life, offering a rich tapestry of visual and cultural delights.

    Best Art Museums in Oslo & Attractions for Art Lovers

    National Museum of Norway – National Museum in Oslo

    The Nasjonalmuseet, or National Museum of Norway in Oslo, showcases a captivating fusion of artistic heritage and stands as the largest art museum in the Nordic countries. Its new venue, inaugurated in 2022, houses over 400,000 works of art, seamlessly melding the realms of older, modern and contemporary art, as well as innovative design. The new building brings together what were once several separate museums, and its modern and intriguing appearance can at times seem monolithic and austere.

    Located as a gateway to the lively Aker Brygge neighborhood, its exhibit range through the main collections that once belonged to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Norwegian Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, offering an immersive journey through the evolution of Norwegian artistic expression. Inside, an engaging chronological display of artworks traces the tapestry of Norwegian art history, interspersed with select international pieces, offering a richly layered understanding of creativity across epochs.

    One of the museum’s highlights is the Munch Room, where iconic paintings by Edvard Munch, including the haunting “The Scream” (1893) and the contemplative “Madonna” (1894), evoke deep emotions. This room also pays homage to other artistic luminaries such as Harriet Backer, Harald Sohlberg and the sculptor Gustav Vigeland. International flair graces the halls with masterpieces by Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso.

    Outside, the museum’s architectural simplicity shines through, designed in a subtle brutalist style by Kleihues + Schuwerk Gesellschaft von Architekten. This unassuming design harmonizes with its surroundings and from the rooftop terrace visitors are treated to a peerless view of the inner Oslofjord. The museum’s exterior space has been thoughtfully cultivated into an urban meeting point, inviting visitors to relax amidst outdoor seating and serene resting spots. English-speaking visitors can join informative guided tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2pm, adding an insightful layer to the art-viewing experience.

    Entry is free with the Oslo Pass

    MUNCH Museum

    The MUNCH Museum stands as arguably Oslo’s most renowned museum, entirely devoted to the celebrated Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch. It’s a paramount destination for enthusiasts keen on delving into Munch’s life and oeuvre. Established in 1963, the museum showcase the most extensive assortment of Munch’s paintings, drawings, prints and personal effects, notably featuring his iconic masterpiece: “The Scream”.

    Recently relocated to Bjørvika, a picturesque waterfront locale adjacent to the Oslo Opera House, the museum has become the primary venue for experiencing Munch’s artistic legacy. Previously housed in the Norwegian National Museum in Tøyen (known as the Old Munch Museum), the collection transitioned to its new modern home in October 2021. Designed by Estudio Herreros, the new architectural marvel spans 13 floors, offering a rich tapestry of art and cultural encounters. Eleven galleries chronicle Munch’s artistic evolution, complemented by exhibitions featuring modernist and contemporary artists in conversation with Munch.

    The museum’s multifunctional spaces accommodate events and temporary exhibits, while its top four floors provide panoramic vistas of the city. The MUNCH Museum collection boast over 26.000 works, spanning paintings, drawings, lithographs, sculptures and photographs. Additionally, an exhibition detailing the artist’s life includes a reconstruction of his studio. Notable masterpieces on display include “The Scream”, “Madonna”, “Night in Nice”, “The Sick Child”, “Puberty” and “Ashes”.

    As you may know, there are different versions of Munch’s works, with the same name and similar appearance, different in technique and style. Among the art museums in Oslo, the MUNCH Museum houses almost all of the artist’s most important works and the largest collection of sketches and lithographs. Accessing the museum is convenient via public transportation, or you can enjoy a scenic 10-minute walk from Oslo Central Station.

    Entry is free with the Oslo Pass

    Astrup Fearnley Museum

    Located right on the waterfront, the Astrup Fearnley Museum is one of the main destinations for contemporary art in Oslo and boasts a collection of international standing. This museum is not only a showcase of some of the most influential and provocative artists of our time, but also a stunning architectural masterpiece that blends seamlessly with its surroundings. The museum was founded in 1993 by the Astrup Fearnley family, who are passionate collectors and patrons of contemporary art. They wanted to create a space that would reflect their vision and taste, as well as offer a platform for emerging and established artists from around the globe.

    The museum moved to its current location in 2012, where it occupies two buildings connected by a glass bridge over a canal. The buildings were designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, who is known for his innovative and elegant structures, and the museum’s exterior is inspired by the maritime history and culture of the city, as well as the natural landscape of Norway. The museum’s location on the waterfront offers spectacular views of the Oslo fjord and the city skyline, creating a contrast between the old and the new, the natural and the artificial.

    The museum’s interior is equally impressive, as it houses one of the most comprehensive and diverse collections of contemporary art in Scandinavia. The collection spans from the 1960s to the present day, and features works by some of the most renowned and controversial artists of our era. The focus, originally centered around American appropriation artists from the 1980s, has evolved over the years to encompass a dynamic array of international contemporary art.

    You can find works by Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney, Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Olafur Eliasson and many more. The museum also hosts 6-7 temporary exhibitions each year, showcasing the latest trends and developments in the art world.

    Entry is free with the Oslo Pass

    Frogner Park (Vigeland Sculpture Park)

    Frogner Park is the most famous of Oslo’s city parks, and is also called Vigeland Sculpture Park for being one of the largest sculpture parks in the world, and the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. Here you can admire the extraordinary work of local artist Gustav Vigeland, a unique blend of art and architecture, as he was not only responsible for the sculptures but also for the park’s design. In the park, which covers an area of 43 hectares and is open all year round, 24 hours a day, free of charge, you can admire more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron between 1924 and 1943, all by Gustav Vigeland.

    The park is divided into five main sections: the Main Gate, the Bridge, the Fountain, the Monolith Plateau and the Wheel of Life. Each section showcases Vigeland’s artistic vision and explores different aspects of human life and emotions, from birth to death, from joy to sorrow, from love to hate.The Main Gate is the entrance to the park and consists of five large wrought iron gates and two copper-roofed gatehouses. The gates are decorated with motifs of humans, animals and plants, symbolizing the diversity of life.

    The Bridge is the most popular and crowded part of the park, as it connects the Main Gate with the Fountain. The most famous sculpture on the Bridge is the Angry Boy (Sinnataggen in Norwegian), a small child stamping his foot in fury. The Fountain is the centerpiece of the park and represents the circle of life. It consists of a large circular basin surrounded by 20 bronze tree groups, each depicting a different stage of human existence, from childhood to old age. In the center of the basin, a 7-meter-high column of water jets out, symbolizing the source of life.

    The Monolith Plateau is the highest point of the park and the most impressive section. It features a massive granite column carved from a single block of stone. The column is composed of 121 intertwined human figures, reaching upwards towards the sky, expressing the aspiration for spiritual transcendence. The Monolith is surrounded by 36 granite groups, depicting various scenes of human struggle and cooperation. The Wheel of Life is the final and most symbolic section of the park. It consists of a simple granite ring with four human figures holding onto it, and represents the eternal cycle of life and death, and the unity of all living beings.

    While exploring the park, a detour to the Oslo City Museum offers a glimpse into the city evolution through a captivating array of paintings and photographs. Moreover, the adjacent Ekeberg Sculpture Park, accessible by a short tram ride, is home to 31 sculptures by international artists, including Salvador Dali’s whimsical “Venus de Milo aux tiroirs”. For those keen on delving deeper into the Vigelands’ legacy, a visit to the Vigeland Museum (free entry with Oslo Pass.) provides a comprehensive insight. This sculpture museum resides within the very studio and home of Gustav Vigeland, showcasing his early works, portraits, monuments, and plaster models that later found their place in the park.

    A little secret: the Emanuel Vigeland Museum

    Another hidden gem is the Emanuel Vigeland Museum, completely dedicated to the whimsical genius of Emanuel Vigeland, the little brother of Gustav Vigeland. This museum unveils its masterstroke, an 800-square-meter fresco titled “VITA” that narrates the journey of human existence from inception to demise. Housed within a dim, echoey mausoleum, the museum offers a truly alternative experience for those willing to uncover its intriguing narrative. Open exclusively on Sundays (online booking required) and accessible via T-Bane and a short walk, the Emanuel Vigeland Museum holds the enigmatic essence of a bygone era, awaiting the curious traveler’s discerning eye.

    Ekebergparken Sculpture Park

    Just a short tram ride away from the city center, the Ekebergparken Sculpture Park seamlessly weaves together history, nature and remarkable artworks. Located in the southeast of Oslo, this park offers a panoramic view of the city and the Oslofjord, as well as a collection of sculptures by internationally renowned artists. The park features more than 40 sculptures, many of them with women as subjects, made of various materials, such as bronze, marble, stainless steel, glass and stone, and representing different styles and movements, from classical to contemporary.

    Some of the highlights of the sculpture park include Venus Milo aux Tiroirs by Salvador Dalí, Anatomy of an Angel – a marble sculpture that reveals the internal organs of a winged figure – by Damien Hirst and Dilemma by Elmgreen & Dragset. But this is also the place that inspired Munch’s iconic “Scream” painting! Keep a watchful eye as you stroll – unexpected encounters await, from enigmatic alien-like structures to towering female figures and dangling silver forms adorning the trees.

    In addition to the sculptures, the park also showcases the history and nature of the area, which dates back to the stone age. You can find traces of rock carvings, ruins, cemeteries and fortifications from different periods, as well as a variety of plants and animals. The park also has an indoor museum, where you can learn more about the park’s concept and background, and a museum shop, where you can buy books and souvenirs. Ekebergparken Sculpture Park is open all year round, and admission is free.

    Henie Onstad Kunstsenter

    If you are looking for a cultural escape from the bustling city of Oslo, you might want to visit Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (HOK), a museum and art center located in the scenic surroundings of Høvikodden, about 15 minutes away by car or public transport. Founded in 1968 by the Olympic figure skater Sonja Henie and her husband, the shipping magnate and art collector Niels Onstad, the museum boasts a rich and diverse collection of contemporary art spanning from the early 20th century to the present day, and an ever-changing array of temporary exhibitions that seamlessly blend the classic and the avant-garde.

    You can admire masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Miró, Christo and many others, as well as discover new and emerging artists from Norway and abroad. HOK also hosts temporary exhibitions, music and performance events, workshops and guided tours throughout the year. Its sculpture park features over 30 sculptures and installations by renowned artists and offers a stunning view of the Oslofjord and the surrounding nature. You can also enjoy a relaxing stroll along the beach, which is adjacent to the museum. Beyond its artistic tapestry, the museum offers a glimpse into the life of Sonja Henie, with a display of her trophies.

    Contemporary Art Galleries In Grünerløkka

    Grünerløkka has transformed from a working-class neighborhood and an industrial center to Oslo’s most trendy district in the past few decades. It combines a rough-edged charm with a bohemian flair, featuring cozy cafes, chic shops, and old factories. It is also the perfect place to explore Oslo’s vibrant contemporary art scene, with dozens of galleries showcasing works by local and international artists. If you love contemporary art, you will enjoy wandering around one of Europe’s most lively and sophisticated artistic areas.

    Here are some of the most famous contemporary art galleries in Grünerløkka:

    • TM51: Located on the busy Thorvald Meyers Gate, this spacious gallery is minimalist in design but diverse in content. It welcomes artists from various genres and styles, making it the core of Grünerløkka’s artistic scene.
    • Galleri Schæffer’s Gate 5: This independent gallery is situated on a street named after a supporter of young artists. It curates original art that reflects global creativity and diversity.
    • Fotogalleriet: This gallery was established in 1977 and has been promoting photography as an expressive medium ever since. It exhibits photography along with sculpture and installation, creating dynamic and captivating displays.
    • Kunstplass 5: This gallery is a newcomer, but it has already made a name for itself with its focus on politically and socially engaged art that challenges norms and conventions. It provides a space for performance art, discussions, and exhibitions with a critical perspective.
    • ROM for kunst og arkitektur: This gallery is the result of the collaboration between gallery ROM and Institutt for Romkunst, both dedicated to exploring the intersections of art and architecture. It invites visitors to experience innovative and experimental art and architecture projects.

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    The Best Art Museums Around Oslo

    In addition to the many art museums in Oslo, art lovers will find dozens of interesting places to visit just around the Norwegian capital. The surrounding region boasts a wealth of beautiful natural landscapes, quiet towns and interesting art museums, as well as several sites showcasing Southern Norway’s artisan and industrial history, such as ancient mines and glass factories. The art in Oslo goes far beyond the city limits, so if you want to explore further, you could rent a car and head to the many interesting attractions in the surrounding area:

    • Bærums Verk: Step back in time and immerse yourself in the cozy atmosphere of this former ironworks village, where 18th-century wooden houses host shops and workshops for arts and crafts. Watch artisans demonstrate their skills in glassblowing, woodworking, carpentry, knitting, weaving, and quilting, and admire their exquisite creations. Bærums Verk is located in Bærum municipality, about 20 km west of Oslo.
    • Haugar Vestfold Art Museum: Although less famous than the art museums in Oslo, you should know that this is often considered among the best art museums in Norway, and showcases interesting works from local and international artists. Its centerpiece is the Andy Warhols tribute to Munch, part of the permanent exhibition. Haugar Vestfold Art Museum is located in Tønsberg, one of the oldest towns in Norway, about 100 km south of Oslo.
    • Lillehammer Art Museum: Another prominent art museum in Norway, the Lillehammer Art Museum traces local artistic history from the 19th century to today. Its collection features works by notable artists such as Johan Christian Dahl, Hans Gude, Frits Thaulow, Edvard Munch, and Harriet Backer, comprising over 1500 pieces. Housed in a modern building designed by the renowned architect Snøhetta, the museum is famous for its temporary exhibitions, which showcase some of the best and most interesting artists from across Europe. It is located in the heart of Lillehammer, approximately 180 km north of Oslo.
    • Kistefos: Experience the awe-inspiring fusion of art, architecture and nature at this unique museum, where a twisted bridge over the Randalselva river serves as both a gallery and a sculpture. Explore the outdoor sculpture park, where you’ll find works by famous artists like Yayoi Kusama, Claes Oldenburg, and Anish Kapoor. Kistefos is located in Jevnaker, a rural municipality in Viken county, about 67 km north of Oslo.
    • Hadeland Glassverk: Visit Norway’s oldest industrial company, which has been producing glassware since 1762. Witness the glassblowers in action, and learn about the history and culture of this craft. Browse the shops and galleries, and enjoy a bite at one of the quaint cafes. You’ll feel the charm and tradition of this village-like complex. Hadeland Glassverk is located in Jevnaker, next to Kistefos.
    • Kulturdestinasjonen Ramme: Explore the newest addition to Oslo’s art scene, which offers a variety of exhibitions, performances, and concerts. Wander around the grounds, which resemble a fairy-tale garden, and spot the traces of Edvard Munch’s life, including his former house. Kulturdestinasjonen Ramme is located in Hvitsten, a coastal village in Vestby municipality, about 47 km south of Oslo.