In the Norwegian town of Lillestrøm, east of the capital Oslo, contemporary art in all its forms has found a home in the brand-new Nitja Centre for Contemporary Art. Here, you can explore, experience and enjoy the art on display in a bright and modern exhibition space.

Visual art needs good surroundings to really shine. At the brand-new Nitja Centre for Contemporary Art in Lillestrøm, the architecture, interior and ambience are designed to make the art the main focus. Many years in the making, the art centre – previously called Akershus Kunstsenter (Akerhus Art Centre) – has finally found a new home. The building is designed by Haugen/Zohar Architects (HZA), a studio working at the intersection between architecture and art. Commissioned by Lillestrøm municipality and Viken county municipality, the centre opened its doors in 2021 with a new profile and name.

“Many people think “Nitja? I’ve never heard of that!”. And that would be correct. But it is the reinvention and rebranding of the renowned Akershus Art Centre,” says director Rikke G. Komissar with a smile. “Nitja’s new profile is vibrant and pulsating, presenting contemporary artists, hosting talks and debates, as well as activities for children,” Komissar continues. “Nitja offers experiences for everyone and one can easily spend a couple of hours here.”

Nitja Centre for Contemporary Art: Contemporary art’s new home

Left: Rikke Komissar. Photo: Jan Alsaker. Right: Detail from Raustein’s exhibition. Photo: Raustein

Enjoy temporary exhibitions

The name Nitja is inspired by the original Norse and local name of the river that runs through Lillestrøm, Nitelva. The word ‘nitja’ comes from the Norse verb ‘(h)nita’, meaning ‘to collide’, but is also linked to waves, refractions and catching currents. Essentially, it’s a hub. The exhibitions are temporary, changing monthly, presenting both nationally and internationally renowned artists. In combination with pop up-exhibitions, side events and outdoor projects, Nitja is a vibrant and engaged institution.

One upcoming exhibition is Norwegian contemporary artist John K. Raustein’s Tilrettelagte sannheter (den nye verden) (Facilitated truths (the new world)). Raustein transforms the exhibition space into an all-encompassing installation, filling the 230 square metres with his own distinctive visual world of colourful applications and textile pieces.

In the exhibition at Nitja, Raustein connects memories from childhood with studies of a more contemporary and urban scene – namely, the construction site. For Raustein, there are links between stacks of building plastic, tarpaulin, pipe coils and memories of his mother’s sewing club and scenes from textile shops. This juxtaposition also reflects our penchant for gender-stereotypical thinking and categorisation. While construction sites are dominated by masculinity, the sewing and textile industries are often the opposite.

Categorisations of gender are something Raustein has long challenged through his art. In the series I’m Trying To Be A Handyman (1998-2000), he embroidered tools on lace pillows and tablecloths, and the installation included an ironing board in which the iron had been replaced with a sanding machine.

“I am confident that Raustein’s exhibition will be a fascinating visual experience that will appeal to all our senses,” Komissar says. “I am sure that this exhibition will also trigger reflection on topics such as gender and identity, which are recurrent topics in Raustein’s works that he continues to reflect through his practice. So, if you happen to pass by Lillestrøm on your way to Oslo or the airport, make sure to stop by Nitja. The exhibition will run all summer, until August 7 2022.”

Nitja Centre for Contemporary Art: Contemporary art’s new home

Photo: Istvan Virag

A relaxing environment with aesthetic design

The centre also includes areas for relaxation and leisure. The lounge, with its inviting designer sofa and chairs, is the perfect chill-out zone to relax with a cup of coffee and other treats from Kafé Nitja. Or, if the weather permits, why not enjoy the outdoor seating area with a book and a cool drink? Nitja’s art lounge presents temporary exhibitions of small sculptures and pieces of art available for purchase, and the gift shop features unique arts and crafts, and other small items.

Nitja also features an activity room with workshops for kids and youth, designed by Kinkeliane, ensuring that the centre offers experiences that cover all senses for all ages. Nearby is a new library, Lillestrøm Cultural Centre and other culture institutions – all connected by a park and a playground for kids. Lillestrøm high street, full of interesting shops and restaurants, is only a few minutes’ walk away.

Getting to Nitja could not be easier. Located across the street from Lillestrøm train station, the centre is impossible to miss. Lillestrøm is the only stop between Oslo and the airport on the airport express train, making it the perfect pit-stop no matter which way you are travelling. When travelling east on regional trains, Lillestrøm is also the first stop after leaving Oslo Central Station.

Nitja Centre for Contemporary Art: Contemporary art’s new home

Photo: Einar Aslaksen

Nitja Centre for Contemporary Art is open:
Tuesday to Wednesday: 11am to 5pm,
Thursday to Friday: 11am to 9pm,
Saturday to Sunday: 11am to 5pm.
Haugen/Zohar Architects (HZA):
Instagram: @nitja_senter_for_samtidskunst
Facebook: Nitjasenterforsamtidskunst

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