Norway // Oslo and the Oslofjord //

Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter

Overlooking the Oslofjord, some 15km west of the city centre in Høvikodden, the Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter (Henie-Onstad Art Centre) is one of Norway’s most prestigious modern art centres. There’s no false modesty here – it’s all about art as an expression of wealth – and the low-slung, modernistic building is a glossy affair located on a handsomely landscaped, wooded headland. The gallery was founded in the 1960s by ice-skater-cum-movie-star Sonja Henie (1910–69) and her third husband, the shipowner-cum-art-collector Niels Onstad. Henie won three Olympic gold medals (1928, 1932 and 1936) and went on to appear in a string of lightweight Hollywood musicals. Many of her accumulated cups and medals are displayed in a room of their own, and they once prompted a critic to remark: “Sonja, you’ll never go broke. All you have to do is hock your trophies.” Despite her successes, Henie was not universally admired – far from it, not least because of her links with the Nazi elite both before and during World War II.

The wealthy couple accumulated an extensive collection of twentieth-century painting and sculpture. Matisse, Miró and Picasso, postwar French abstract painters, Expressionists and modern Norwegians all feature, but these now compete for gallery space with temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, making it impossible to predict what part of the permanent collection will be on display at any one time. After the museum, be sure to spend a little time wandering the surrounding Skulpturparken (Sculpture Park), where you’ll see work by the likes of Henry Moore and Arnold Haukeland; plans of the park are available at reception.

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