After my positive experience at the British Museum’s Munch exhibition, where I realised that, yes, I am a fan of Munch, I was very keen to see the Munch Museum in Oslo. Unfortunately, the Munch Museum is currently in the process of moving to a new location, so only a small portion of the collection is open to the public. As you may have seen from previous posts, this seemed to be the case with a lot of the museums in Oslo, which are being moved/combined/etc, to create what looks like will be a more centralised museum district, so it was probably poor planning on our part, but to be honest, there were so many museums to see that it didn’t have a major impact on our trip, except in the case of the Munch Museum (and the Ibsen Museum, which was totally closed).
Even though the museum is currently only hosting one temporary exhibition called EXIT! (which runs until 8th September), with none of the permanent galleries open, it still costs 120 kr to get in (£12), though it was fortunately included with the Oslo Pass. I’m not going to lie, I was EXTREMELY annoyed by their airport style security, especially given how little was actually in the museum. As I learned at the exhibition, they have had problems with theft in the past, so I certainly understand not letting in large bags, but you basically couldn’t bring in anything of any significant size (only bags smaller than a sheet of A4). My purse was quite small (for me, since I tend to have big-ass purses), so I thought I was ok, and waited in the lengthy queue for security only to realise when I got to the front that you couldn’t bring in umbrellas or water either, both of which I had in my bag, so I had to get out of line, go downstairs to put my bag in the lockers, come back up, and wait in line all over again. So annoying, especially because the woman at the admissions desk told Marcus he would have to put his backpack in a locker, but didn’t mention anything about the other prohibited items. I thought the British Museum’s security was strict, but they don’t really care what you bring in as long as it’s not a suitcase or a weapon. This was just excessive – what do they think I’m going to do with my tiny travel umbrella?
Anyway, once we were finally granted access to the inner sanctum and started reading all the articles in the exhibition, the high security did make a little more sense, but it seems like they were trying to make up for their earlier laxity by being overzealous now. They’ve had a few paintings stolen over the years, including their copy of The Scream, which was eventually recovered, but not before it suffered water damage. The building originally had I guess sort of slatted walls, so anyone could just reach under and grab something. They tried to combat that by getting a guard dog, as seen above, but he bit a visitor who wasn’t trying to steal anything so that put an end to that, and I suppose they eventually settled on the current system, laborious though it is. Also they have a lot of guards in the gallery who keep an uncomfortably close eye on visitors.
We got stuck behind a large tour group, and obviously they all wanted a picture with The Scream, which was in the second room of the exhibition, so whilst we were waiting for our turn, we wandered around and looked at some of Munch’s other paintings. There was a lot of information about how the museum was started, but not so much about Munch himself, so it was good I got the background from the British Museum exhibition. The paintings also didn’t have a whole lot of information about them, just a small label to the side of each one, though everything was in English. I didn’t like how one whole wall of the gallery was taken up with souvenirs they sell in the shop – if you have a massive collection, why are you charging me £12 to look at souvenirs?!
We finally got our obligatory Scream photo (as you can see at the start), and wandered off into the final large gallery, which contained guidebooks from all of the museum’s exhibitions over the years. These would have probably been interesting if we could have looked through them, but the covers didn’t particularly do anything for me (accidental Scream pose below, but really that’s just one of my standard museuming poses).
There was a small room in the back that contained some of Munch’s woodblock prints (so great), and another room with a few of his murals in, and those were cool, but that was it (I even went looking for more, but aside from a film room downstairs, that really was it). The shop and cafe area was nearly the size of the exhibition, so it’s clear where their priorities currently lie!
Even though there were a few great pieces on display here, if this was my introduction to Munch outside The Scream, I don’t think this would have won me over the way the British Museum’s exhibition did. I get that they can’t have a full display whilst they’re in the process of moving, and I am glad I got to see something, but I don’t think they should be charging 120 kr for this, and I think they should make it clearer before you pay admission that this is all you get to see, because the main page of their website certainly didn’t make me realise that this was all that was on display. I’m still totally a Munch fan, but I am not a fan of this museum in its current state (and I know I keep saying that, but seriously why would all your major museums be under construction at the same time?! Get it together, Oslo). 2/5.