May 13, 2020
News

The Museum of Modern Art reportedly joined efforts to rescue Picasso murals in Oslo.

Central Government Buildings (Regjeringskvartalet), Oslo, with decoration The Fishermen by Carl Nesjar after sketches by Pablo Picasso. Photo by Helge Høifødt via Wikimedia Commons.

Central Government Buildings (Regjeringskvartalet), Oslo, with decoration The Fishermen by Carl Nesjar after sketches by Pablo Picasso. Photo by Helge Høifødt via Wikimedia Commons.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has seemingly joined the battle over two murals that were designed by Pablo Picasso and sandblasted into the concrete walls of a brutalist government building in central Oslo that’s now slated for demolition. The two murals, The Fisherman and The Seagull, were designed by Picasso and executed by the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar on the building’s façade and lobby walls, respectively. Known as Y-Block and designed by Norwegian architect Erling Viksjø, the building was badly damaged by a car bomb in a 2011 terrorist attack, and in 2014 Norway’s government proposed tearing the building down.
In a letter—published by Norwegian news site VG and quoted by The Art Newspaper—purportedly sent by MoMA to Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime minister, and Sveinung Rotevatn, its minister for the environment, museum officials say they,
are writing to express our grave concern regarding the approved demolition of the Y-block governmental building… the demolition of the building complex would not only constitute a significant loss of Norwegian architectural heritage, but it would also render any attempt to salvage or reposition Picasso’s site-specific murals elsewhere unfortunate.
Plans for the Y-Block demolition call for the Picasso/Nesjar murals to be removed and eventually reintegrated into two new buildings. However, architecture and heritage groups have criticized the scheme because of the site-specific nature of the concrete murals and the importance of Viksjø’s building.
Gro Nesjar Greve, Carl Nesjar’s daughter, told The Art Newspaper:
The building [Y-Block] was fenced in ten days ago, and The Fishermen was covered up. Workers at the site started drilling, but it’s worrying as once they start moving the mural, it will crack. Nobody has explained how they will do it.