Tuesday, 20 April 2010
What to see: Statues of King Olav, the Vigeland Museum, Oslo
As mentioned recently the sculptor Olav Orud has been chosen to create the statue of King Olav V which will stand close to the City Hall in Oslo. Until 9 May all the projects entered into the contest are displayed in the Vigeland Museum and seeing them all together does in a way help one understand why it has taken three rounds and nearly twenty years to settle on an acceptable monument.
Making a statue of a much-loved king still remembered my most people is naturally not the easiest thing to do, as people will except it to resemble the man they remember and to capture him like he was. And this is what many of the sculptors who took part in the competition have failed to do.
The winner, Olav Orud, has called his sculpture “Mann og bauta” (first photo). It is a fairly conventional statue, showing King Olav in an ordinary suit, holding his hat behind his back. Orud has chosen to let the statue stand next to its plinth on which will be engraved items reminding us of skiing and sailing, as well as images of King Olav’s two arrivals in Norway (in 1905 and 1945).
Letting the King stand next to the plinth was a solution also chosen by Kristian Blystad (second photo), who also won a prize for his suggestion. Another sculptor, whose name I did not get, chose to let the King stand next to a throne in the sculpture titled “Kongelig sete” (third picture).
The idea of the King descending towards the people has been used for statues of King Olav both in Trondheim and in Asker and Lise Fuglevik tried something similar for her proposal, called “Kongetrappen” (fourth photo). Ferdinand Wyller on the other hand, in his work called “Innviet til, avskåret fra” (fifth photo), chose to show the King rising from the earth.
Most of the artists have chosen to portray King Olav in civilian clothes – among them Henning E. Espedal (sixth picture), which I found among the better ones, and Håkon Anton Fagerås (photo 7). The latter is inspired by the famous photo of King Olav looking at a cat, but the statue is almost a replica of Stephan Sinding’s monument of Henrik Ibsen outside the National Theatre. Also Tore Bjørn Skjølsvik, in his prize-winning project “Kongens nærvær” (eighth photo) has stressed the informal side of King Olav.
Per Ung, one of the most famous of Norwegian sculptors, has on the other hand chosen to present King Olav in military uniform (ninth photo), but I cannot say the old master has succeeded this time. Also Frode Mikal Lillesund (tenth photo) opted for a uniform for his sculptor which is titled “Kong Olav V – slik vi husker ham” (“King Olav V – as we remember him”), which one wonders if is a joke, as I doubt many remember King Olav as a cabaret artist.
Most of the monuments are rather traditional in form, but there are some exceptions. One of them is “Kongen blandt [sic] folket” by Arne Mæland (photo 11), which partly resembles Knut Steen’s rejected monument with the King emerging from a plinth consisting of his people. Less conventional is also Gunn Harbitz’s monumental medallion (“Kongespeil”) (twelfth photo).
All in all there were nearly 50 projects entered into the contest. Several of them are horrendous and generally it seems many artists have found it difficult to capture the King people remember. Having seen them all I would say that Olav Orud’s statue, although a bit too conventional, is indeed one of the best choices after all.