Art in the North

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When thinking of Norway and Oslo, one might commonly picture hunting moose, people freezing and tall attractive super humans.

But perhaps upon closer inspection you will find a city of immense culture and beauty.

Set on the reclaimed land in Tjuvholmen that is the waterfront on Oslo’s Fjord, is the contemporary museum, Astrup Fearnley. World-renowned architect Renzo Piano designed the building. He has also designed Centre Georges Pompidou, The Shard and The New York Times Building.

The current exhibition is Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God and Good Morning America, which features Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Charles Ray.

Good Morning America is a compilation from the Museums’ collection and the works exhibited surround the influential group of American artists of the late 1970s and 1980s and the creation of ‘Appropriation Art’. This art theme, that was particularly prominent in America, was primarily about taking existing forms and figures to forge a new kind of meaning.

Appropriation raises a lot of questions we have about the nature of art, mainly what is the definition of art, concerning originality and authenticity? With that being said all the works in the exhibition are very personal, conveying opinions on society and things that had shaped the artist at the time.

Starting off with works by Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons you are transported into the mind-set of the time.

Cindy Sherman’s works are based off female stereotypes that can be seen in films, television, advertising and magazines. One work in particular is a photograph of an older model, depicted as posing for Vogue. In the large-scale photograph you can see an excessive amount of make up and flamboyance, which are further enforced by the hints of plastic surgery.

Perhaps in the work of Koons the theme of appropriation is most clear. He uses floats for pools and suspends them or inserts objects through them. Or in the case of one piece places several vacuum cleaners in a vitrine.

Yet as you gaze over the vacuum cleaners in the vitrine and start to ask yourself is this really artistic upon first inspection, you are then shocked by two images from Koons’ series with ex wife, ex porn star turned Politian Cicciolina. The two images are very graphic and are supposed to portray a relationship between art and porn.

However whilst they are particularly shocking what was more so was watching the reaction of exhibition goers as they turned the corner to see the images. The curator of the exhibition clearly has a great sense of humour by placing these too more racy images in an alcove hidden from view and having the vacuum cleaners only visible from the main room.

Further on in the exhibition, in a room overlooking the water, are works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

Gonzalez-Torres’ partner passed away from AIDS and in works such as Endless Supply and Untitled (Placebo) you can feel his frustration and futility in seeing the amount of pills his partner had to ingest.

Whilst they see simplistic, there is a sort of poetry when you understand the artists meaning. The artwork invites onlookers to take a piece of candy and in some small way share and ease the artists’ pain.

For the Love of God by Damien Hirst brings to Scandanvia for the first time the title piece, the 8’601 (VVS to flawless) diamond encrusted skull.

The inspiration is drawn from the Aztec skulls and the Mexican love of decoration and attitude towards death. Hirst explains that as death is a painful part of life, you decorate or disguise it to make it look like something bearable and then to such an extent that it becomes something else. He goes on to explain the cutthroat diamond industry and how people kill for diamonds.

Other works included are God Alone Knows and other biopsied animals suspended in formaldehyde filled vitrines. There are also works from the following series; spot paintings, spin paintings, entomology / butterfly paintings and the Last Supper series. Some of the works come from the Museums own collection