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Pablo Picasso and Carl Nesjar’s mural The Fisherman on the Y-block building in Oslo.
Pablo Picasso and Carl Nesjar’s mural The Fisherman on the Y-block building in Oslo.

Picasso Mural Removed from Oslo’s Y-Block Despite International Protest

Despite objections around the world from preservationists, politicians, prominent curators, and tens of thousands of petition signers, the Norwegian government has detached the concrete mural by Pablo Picasso that has adorned a building in Oslo’s downtown Regjeringskvartalet quarter for fifty years. The structure, a Brutalist office complex known as the Y-block, which was damaged in a 2011 terrorist attack, is slated for demolition as part of redevelopment plans for the city’s small government district. The Y-block was realized in 1969 by modernist architect Erling Viksjø, who also designed the adjacent H-block, which hosts a smaller Picasso mural, The Seagull, in its lobby. Both works were executed by Picasso collaborator Carl Nesjar and are being relocated. According to the Times, Viksjø’s grandson and Nesjar’s daughter, Gro Nesjar Greve, have jointly sued the Norwegian government to prevent The Fisherman from being reintroduced above the VIP entrance to the new building, which is part of the official plan. Activists have also waged a campaign to postpone the razing until the lawsuit can be heard.

“Considerations of safety, functionality, urban environment, conservation, and costs were taken into account in an overall assessment,” Nikolai Astrup, the Norwegian minister of local government and modernization, told the New York Times, claiming that the Picasso Administration, which oversees the artist’s sprawling legacy, had given its blessing despite initial hesitancy. In May, chief curators Ann Temkin and Martino Stierli of New York’s Museum of Modern Art sent a letter to Prime Minister Erna Solberg arguing that the building’s demolition would constitute “a significant loss of Norwegian architectural heritage.”