Kunstverket Galleri: Pioneers in Nordic print making
From Her Majesty the Queen of Norway to young, new artists, Kunstverket Galleri in Oslo has a unique breadth of art and artists to show their visitors, showcasing work by over 200 different Nordic artists.
Located in the historic area of Kvadraturen in Oslo, right in the middle of the art district, Kunstverket is one of the leading privately owned galleries for prints and fine art on paper in the Nordic region, showcasing what they regard as the foremost graphic artists from the region. One of the most dynamic aspects of the gallery is its exhibitions programme, with exhibitions changed around eight times a year and with a focus on solo exhibitions by established artists showing new works and, for them, new techniques, as well as up-and-coming talents.
The gallery opened in 1989 and started out exhibiting graphic prints produced by artists at the lithography workshop next door. It soon widened its scope, making contacts with artists and workshops not only throughout Norway but also in the neighbouring countries Sweden, Denmark and Finland. “We realised that printmaking in the Nordic region had its own characteristics and generally held a high level of craftsmanship and quality. Moreover, we found that none of the high-street galleries exhibited prints, so we made Nordic contemporary prints our niche. Since then, we have also included other works on paper in our exhibition,” says director Petter U. Morken.
Nordic printmaking as a tradition started when Edvard Munch (1863-1944) experimented with graphic art as a contemporary medium in the 1890s. Building on these traditions, Nordic artists have since evolved the craft, common influences being melancholy and a strong connection to the characteristic nature of the Nordic regions. In the late 1960s, a graphic wave emerged on the Norwegian art scene, where artists started using editions of prints as a medium to spread their often left-wing political views and to democratise the art scene. One of the leading figures of this movement was the artist Per Kleiva, who made several iconic silkscreens, which now hold the highest price levels for contemporary prints at auctions. This spring, Kunstverket Galleri hosted his last exhibition – the largest retrospective exhibition of the artist’s prints to date.
“In contrast to art techniques such as painting and sculpture, prints can be made in editions and can be offered to the audience at a relatively low price. As a result, most Norwegian households, companies and institution are owners of fine art prints,” says Morken.
LEFT: MEMORIAL EXHIBITION, PER KLEIVA, APRIL 2018, RIGHT: KJELL NUPEN EXHIBITION, JUNE 2018
Art from the Queen of Norway
Internationally, printmaking has had a renaissance. Prints are used as a way of artistic expression both by our most well-regarded established artists and by the younger generations of artists. Moreover, prints are now exhibited at art museums, acquired by collectors and esteemed art collections, and receive high prices at auction houses. “A great contributor to this development is H.M. Queen Sonja, and the Queen Sonja Print Award, established in 2011 to generate interest in and promote the development of graphic art. It has now become the world’s largest graphic art award. This is, of course, of immense importance to all of us lovers of the print medium,” says Morken.
Kunstverket Galleri has had the honour of exhibiting prints created by Queen Sonja herself, as well as several exhibitions with the first winner, Tiina Kiivinen. They also collaborate with the Queen’s Award when it comes to exhibiting the winner of the Kjell Nupen Memorial Grant.
London Original Print Fair.
Kunstverket Galleri also wants the rest of the world to explore Nordic contemporary prints. They regularly attend the London Original Print Fair, which takes place annually at The Royal Academy of Arts in London. The fair is the longest-running print fair in the world, bringing together some 50 international galleries with expert print knowledge, and is an important and relevant meeting place for curators and collectors of prints from around the world.
“We keep building an international audience and receive much attention for the Nordic contemporary prints we represent. Being the only gallery from the Nordic region at the fair presents a unique opportunity to bring our artists into the spotlight,” Morken explains. In 2018, the gallery was invited to present themselves and their artists to some 30 international curators and collectors at an event arranged at the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence in London.
Visitors at Kunstverket Galleri can expect exciting exhibitions of high-quality prints from renowned Nordic artists. At all times, you can also visit the gallery and expect to find prints from more than 200 artists, presented by the service-minded and knowledgeable staff at the gallery. “Like the artist Inger Sitter said, visual artists only have three seconds to catch people’s attention when they walk past our work and occasionally stop. At the gallery, we aim to make people stop and spend some more time to explore the technical qualities and capture the story embedded in each of the many fine prints.”
OPENING OF EXHIBITION WITH HM THE QUEEN, PHOTO © MORTEN BRUN
About Kunstverket Galleri:
Kunstverket Galleri is a leading gallery for contemporary fine art prints based in central Oslo. The gallery has since its establishment in 1989 worked with contemporary art from the Nordic countries, with a focus on promoting high-quality graphic prints and works on paper as a serious contributor to the Norwegian contemporary art scene.
Kunstverket Galleri represent works by renowned artists such as Inger Sitter, Ørnulf Opdal, Kjell Nupen, Tiina Kivinen, Lars Lerin, Håkon Bleken, Magne Furuholmen, Marianne Heske, Sverre Malling and Sverre Bjertnes.
TEXT: LINNEA DUNNE | PHOTOS © KUNSTVERKET GALLERI/TROND ISAKSEN
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