Critics’ Picks

Randi Frønsdals ballett, untitled, 1969. Performance view, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, 1969.

Randi Frønsdals ballett, untitled, 1969. Performance view, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, 1969.


“I Want The Beatles to Play at My Art Center!”

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Sonja Henies vei 31
October 28, 2012–May 26, 2013

In recent years, several projects at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (HOK) have touched upon the inception of the art center itself, and traced its significance in Scandinavian art history. This show in particular emphasizes the organization’s role as commissioner and producer of time-based art, and numerous documentation archives of the projects that have resulted over the years are on view for the first time. It was in 1968 that the former ice-skating world champion, 1930s Hollywood star, and longtime art collector Sonja Henie inaugurated the center with her husband, shipping magnate Niels Onstad. Even the exhibition’s title—derived from a never-fulfilled aspiration of the enterprising Henie—hints at the value that the kunstsenter has placed, since its founding years, on producing and presenting dance, music, installation, performance, and other time-based avant-garde art in Norway.

All these genres can be explored through content from “the HOK’s other collection,” in the words of curator Lars Mørch Finborud: its rich, until-now underexposed archival materials that document the utopian and progressive interdisciplinary projects produced on-site. A maze of monitors and photographs take visitors back in time to a 1982 visit by Joseph Beuys, 1960s and ’70s contributions by local dance groups, work by John Cage, and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s seminar in 1969. Meanwhile, video of a 1975 staging of Kjartan Slettemark’s iconic, hilarious Poodle Performance—in which the artist appeared in a poodle costume—appears alongside recent live performances commissioned by contemporary fellow Norwegians like singer and performer Nils Bech.

Juxtaposed are a number of large-scale modernist paintings by artists such as Jean Dubuffet and Hans Hartung. In the center’s earliest days this group of works, together, was nicknamed “the world’s most expensive soundproofing”: These canvases used to hang in the “Studio”—the center’s live-music space, where teenagers came for popular concerts—as the directors wanted to make sure even the youngest audience members caught a glimpse of the great masters’ paintings, willingly or not.