Sincerely Yours


They span a wide spectre of art forms and expressions. Gary Hume is well known for his paintings in glossy house paint on sheets of aluminium, while Damien Hirst’s work trades on objects familiar to us in other contexts: ashtrays, medicine cupboards and large glass showcases containing animals in formaldehyde.

Both Sam Taylor-Wood and Douglas Gordon work with video installations. Taylor-Wood puts a strong focus on the individual person, while Gordon is usually inspired by well-known film classics, and in the exhibition Robert de Niro’s film figure from Taxi Driver reappears in an unexpected way. The sculptures of Mona Hatoum and Rachel Whiteread often relate to furniture. Whiteread works with plaster casts, visualizing the empty spaces between and beneath familiar objects, while Hatoum’s objects often deviate from the norm in a disquieting way. In the exhibition we have chosen to put the greatest emphasis on the distinctive and special in each artist. Thus, we see the exhibition as a friendly greeting from six individuals, rather than from a group. The exhibition fills all the museum galleries and is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by museum conservator Øystein Ustvedt.

Museum – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection


The exhibition’s brief title MUSEUM will demonstrate the conditions governing the appreciation of art. The viewer’s reactions will differ according to whether art is seen in a museum collection, or as freshly-created works in a private gallery, in a private home or as work commissioned for embellishment. As modern art and contemporary art often evolve in a meaningful interplay with other art, the museum collection is an excellent place in which to illustrate some of these correlations. It is also a well-known fact that the newest art gives grounds to look at somewhat older art with new eyes. The exhibition recognizes this fact and will be showing new acquisitions, while at the same time revitalizing some of the older works in the collection. Today, the relationship between the general public and the museum is twofold: On one hand a search for recognition and renewed affirmation by viewing familiar works known to belong to the museum, and on the other the expectation of finding something new and encountering surprises.Today’s museums are geared to meet both these expectations and MUSEUM will endeavour to be visually stimulating and to offer our viewers new experiences. The Astrup Fearnley Museum welcomes its frequent visitors and cordially extends an invitation to new visitors.

Museum 2 – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection


The year 2001 exhibition is curated by museum curator Øystein Ustvedt and will include works by international, Nordic and Norwegian artists from the 1960s right up until the present, artists such as Francis Bacon, Andreas Gursky, Olav Chr. Jenssen, Donald Judd, R.B. Kitaj, Peter Land, Markus Lüperts, Bruce Nauman, Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Mari Slaattelid, Vibeke Tandberg, Rachel Whiteread and others. The exhibition will also emphasize the way in which we as a museum choose to organize, display and contextualize art. Well-known phenomena such as The School of London will be explored as well as more periodical, thematic and individual presentations.

REALITY FANTASIES – Post-modern Art from the Astrup Fearnley Collection



Matthew Barney, Richard Billingham, Tony Cragg, Anna Gaskell, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Bruce Nauman, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Charles Ray, Gerhard, Richter, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth, Sam Taylor-Wood, Andy Warhol, Rachel Whiteread.

Everything is connected he, he, he


Participating artists:
Janine Antoni – Matthew Barney – Janet Cardiff & Georges Bures Miller – Thomas Demand – Olafur Eliasson – Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset – Felix Gonzalez-Torres – Cai Guo-Qiang – Mona Hatoum – Annika von Hausswolff – Fabrice Hybert – Peter Land – Bjarne Melgaard – Warren Neidich – Shirin Neshat – Ernesto Neto – Richard Prince – Jason Rhoades – Torbjørn Rødland – Ann-Sofi Sidén – Mari Slaattelid – Børre Sæthre – Vibeke Tandberg – Rirkrit Tiravanija

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The Painting never dries… Reflections over paintings in the Astrup Fearnley Collection


in these same years there were also important developments in painting — developments due, in part, to late-modernism’s awareness of it being in crisis, together with the current interest in pop-art, surrealistically inspired new figuration and growing conceptualism. In this exhibition we would like to spotlight two directions painting took during this period, and show how it developed, in some measure, along and between these two axis. At the one extreme, we find artists who transfer elements from everyday life directly into their paintings. This conception of art is viewed as it abuts onto the subjective statements of the artist, as to what they intend to communicate: be it an observation, a vision or a life-experience.

Andy Warhol and his play with the everyday icons of our life-world was the point of departure for this direction, which we can follow throughout the 1960’s. It is represented by the likes of Gerhard Richter, David Hockney, Edouardo Arroyo, Patrick Caulfield and Erró. Warhol brought into art the aesthetics of advertisement, film stars and political persons, with the intention of holding up a mirror to modern society. In the painting Multicoloured Retrospective, he has combined several earlier motifs such as Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe and Mao, in order to accentuate this intention, while yet still remaining neutral to the motifs.Moving in the other direction was Francis Bacon, whose paintings deal with his own psychological experiences and existential anxiety. He often drew upon literature or philosophy, as in Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus. The dramatic Aeschylus trilogy inspired him to create a complex and intense picture with references to both Surrealism and Cubism. We can make clear connections between Bacon and the Jugoslavian artist Mirodrag Dados’ complex, surrealistic depictions of human suffering and destruction.

At first glance, the paintings of Sigmar Polke can look rather like subjective expressionistic narratives. Yet Polke’s paintings are self-conscious commentaries over Modernism’s painting tradition, where the demand of artistic authenticity was of vital importance. His large triptych Apparizione or Apparition is a sort of ‘ultimate painting’, in the sense that the chemical processes themselves have prevailed and piloted the final result. Polke has merely been the initiator. This work can therefore be interpreted as the telos of representation in painting. At the same time, Polke’s cunning technique can be understood as the final solution to the demand for autonomy in art.

Several of the works in this exhibition find themselves caught in the fray between Bacon’s personal narratives and Warhol’s mirrorings. On the one hand, R. B. Kitaj’s picture Juan de la Cruz is a personal narrative about the fate of an African-American helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, Juan de la Cruz is also a well-known Spanish martyr, whose name and fate are contingently tied to that of the pilot’s. On the other hand, the seriousness of the narrative is far from clear. In the picture’s midst, there is a cartoon figure gazing out with an anxious expression. As such, the picture offers an anomaly that refuses to be dissolved into a unified interpretation. The fragmented pictorial grammar quotes and alludes to numerous visual sources; the expression hovers in a no mans’ land between an expressionistic insistence upon subjective, authentic communication and the more distanced and ambiguous sensibilities of pop art.

Today’s art carries an inheritance from appropriative pop art as well as from subjective, expressionistic painting. Yet artists of today will not be subject to conventions dictated by the materiality of painting, the aesthetics of formalism, or the metaphorical or narrative function of the work’s content. Present-day pictorial practice defies limitations and gladly ventures into unknown territory; conventions can function as goals just as well as means, if the artist so wills it. It is often the abject, impure synthesis that is most valid, because it can take nothing for granted. For example, Chris Ofili has no scruples about combining glitter, images of super-stars and dried elephant dung, in an attempt to comment upon his complex multi-cultural reality.

This freedom from rules is also expressed in the painting Don’t Wake Daddy, where Martin Kippenberger‘s point of origin coincides with pop art’s cartoon aesthetics. The story is told in several transparent layers, and the picture lacks hierarchy and logical structure. Matthew Ritchie also attempts to explode his limitations. With the help of computers, his high cosmic painting challenges the laws of physics. In contrast to Mondrian, who sought to discover the truth about the world by employing a limited vocabulary, Ritchie’s models expand in all dimensions. He does not try to establish a traditional scientific epistemology; rather, he seeks to grasp the sum of knowledge available in our time. Although Ritchie prefers to make spatial installations with pictures spread out in sculptural formations, he conceives of painting as the most important and interesting medium because, as he argues, it is that artistic means which most closely parallels cerebral activity.

The artist Mari Slaattelid examines the materiality of painting. In the works Protective and Spegel/Mirror, she moves the pictorial plain of the painting both into and out of the motif, pushing it up onto the outer surface. In this way, the photograph addresses the limits of painting. Alternatively, photographs play a narrative role in the complex paintings of Fabrice Hybert. He photographs himself and his prototypes, and attempts to follow principles of homeopathy in order to make pictures that can function as an antidote to religious and cultural unrest. By contrast, disorder and turmoil take centre stage in Bjarne Melgaard’s watercolours, drawings and paintings. Melgaard protests against established art forms and attempts to artistically extradite his authentic self in a pictorial language which, in spite of its protest against established art forms, has references to well-known artists such as Edvard Munch, an artist who also ruminated over personal feelings in his paintings.

Is it possible to summarize contemporary painting? Can we say anything about its general hallmarks? In a period where many have debated the justification for the continued existence of painting, interesting developments have continued to occur in the medium. Starting from Andy Warhol’s transferred images, painting has developed along with conceptual art, installation, photo, video and graphic art. While the modern painting comments upon its traditions and problems, it consistently offers new solutions, new perspectives and opens up further problems to solve. Artists tell stories and create reflections that reveal an awareness of the conventions and possibilities of painting, while as yet opening new doors and exploding limitations. The methods are exceedingly diverse, but the exhibition ‘The Paintings Never Dries… Reflections over Paintings in the Astrup Fearnley Collection’ shows a modern painting that is self-conscious, reflective and ever willing to be renewed.

Everyday Aesthetics – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection


Sherrie Levine is happy to take whatever she feels she wants from well-known male forerunners, and through a process of emulation erase the ‘aura’ of the unique artwork. Appropriation artists, often defined as neo-conceptual, recycle mass-produced consumer wares and images. Although object-based art reaches back to Duchamp’s ‘readymades’, this mode of production has less to do with the definition of art – what art actually is – (and it is already received wisdom that artists can make art of everyday objects), but more with a symbolic dimension associated with familiar artefacts and images. Here it is the objects and pictures which, by means of widespread connotations and associations, inaugurate narratives that verify and expose our ambivalent hold on reality.

Richard Prince decided to work with the popular Marlboro ad, but rather than zooming in on the cigarette-smoking aspect, he elevates to mythological status the cowboy (one of the central figures of American mythology: macho, self-sufficient, battling alone against the odds), the horse and the plot. Jeff Koons raises famous mass culture personalities to the level of art; Charles Ray, in contrast, attaches his own genitalia to a mannequin, questioning the connection between reality and representation, the rarefied reality of the viewer and the artist. The public meets in this exhibition an everyday aesthetic which no longer is the pure, sublime formal aesthetic of old, but which engages urgently with content, temporality, memory (personal and collective), commercialism and consumerism, and, not least, social commentary.

Astrup Fearnley Collection – Photo and Video


Doug Aitken – Richard Billingham – Cao Fei – Andreas Gursky – Annika von Hausswolff – Axel Hütte – Candida Höfer – Mikkel McAlinden – Paul McCarthy – Thomas Ruff – Tom Sandberg – Mari Slaattelid – Thomas Struth – Børre Sæthre – Vibeke Tandberg – Sam Taylor-Wood

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MORE THAN THE WORLD – Works from the Astrup Fearnley Collection


In an age when direct experience has been displaced by simulation through diverse media, many artists react by transferring already-existing materials and, in various ways, appropriating them as the material from which to create their own works. Although, from a traditional modernistic perspective, one can argue that nothing new is added when an artist—say Richard Prince—uses pictures from advertising campaigns in his works, we, in this exhibition, would like to show how these artists take their point of departure from the reality of their own popular culture, and create works that interrogate the artwork’s originality. We will see how Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and others use appropriation and simulation, and through these means, allow for a wider, more nuanced understanding of our own times.

Andy Warhol and the Pop Artists, in their attempt to reduce the exalted status of art and aesthetics, utilized aesthetic devices from advertising and popular culture. This revolutionary reorientation is now defined as aesthetic theory in its own right, and constitutes the point of origin for the works in this exhibition. Pop Art’s aesthetic are not unique or exalted, but are appropriated from dominating popular-cultural visions we recognize and encounter through mass media. Here in the exhibition we present the painting Big Electric Chair from Warhol’s well-known “Catastrophe Series”. The motifs in the series are derived from the mass media’s presentation of accidents and deaths, a presentation that, to a large degree, dictates the general comprehension of such events. In spite of Warhol’s desire to mirror the world around him without committing himself to a particular position, it is easy to read the picture as a contemporary political comment on the debate over the American justice system, and the mass media’s role in that debate. Parallel to pop culture, French philosophers such as Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard wrote about the influence of mass media society on the individual. In “The Society of the Spectacle” from 1967, Guy Debord describes the society as a theatrical stage where everything original and alive has been reduced to a representation. This and similar philosophical reflections were important backdrops for the American artist-milieu throughout the 1970s and ‘80s.

Cindy Sherman, in her artistic practice, has examined how different roles and conventions are significant for the modern person’s—and particularly women’s—self-image and self-understanding. Already during the 1970s she created a series of so-called Film Stills, which illuminate several interesting aspects of the simulation-society. The film is one of our most important common cultural references. Today clips from well-known films have just as strong an iconography as medieval religious pictures. Expression, posture and clothing are signs that can be interpreted by a diverse international audience. Sherman operates from these premises in her Film Stills. The black-and-white photographs seem immediately recognizable, and we easily understand them as scenes from some well-known film. In reality, the pictures are constructed from Sherman’s ideas about precisely just such moments in classic film history. They are not excerpts from existing films, but lead us to believe that we have seen them before, because of a tight connection to the visual grammar and aesthetics of classic film.

In contrast to Sherman, Sherrie Levine has gathered her motifs from the repertoire of a well-known photographer. Walker Evens, on commission from the American government, photographed poor American farmers during the 1930. The pictures, which initially were intended as illustration for scientific research on livelihoods, also captured the suffering and deeply human aspects of the situation. Walker Evans has been recognized by posterity as one of the foremost early modernistic photographers in the USA, one of the first who managed to capture human emotions in his photographs. By re-photographing the well-known photo from an exhibition catalogue, and recreating it in two versions—one positive, the other negative—Sherrie Levine questions the “art-value” or “aura” that characterises the unique and original artwork.

While Sherrie Levine and Louise Lawler photograph existing artworks and interrogate the artwork’s position and how its value is established, Richard Prince goes to the advertisement and entertainment industry to find his motifs. One of his most noted works is Spiritual America, a picture that shows the adolescent actress Broke Shields in an erotically charged environment. There is an unmistakeable ironic relationship between the grownup, made-up face and the young body, moreover, the work created a scandal when Prince exhibited it for the first time in a little Manhattan gallery in 1983. Taken in connection with the making of a film ten years earlier, the picture was never intended for the public’s gaze. In the context of the artworld, and with a title borrowed from the well-known American photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the picture stands out as one of the most interesting examples of the significance of appropriation art as contemporary artistic expression.

The greatest upheaval in the American art scene during the 1980s came from Jeff Koons’ exhibition “Banality” in 1988. In earlier works, Koons had, among other things, appropriated billboard advertisements and well-established luxury items, and transferred these into new materials. With the “Banality”-series, Koons wanted to press further by creating works that were not based on existing objects; rather, they were freely modelled out from a conception of American middle-class aesthetics. With his point of origin in a culturally acquired, class-determined taste, Koons created several large sculptures in wood and porcelain. They were received with incredulity and antipathy by the critics. Michael Jackson & Bubbles is one of the most central works from this series. In addition to being the world’s largest porcelain sculpture, it is a unique representation of one of the world’s most profiled pop stars, in a visual language inspired by porcelain knick-knacks and kitsch-culture. The kitsch-culture Koons observed in the American middleclass is not limited to one specific country or culture, but is perhaps one of the most fascinating manifestations of how mass production has shifted the relationship between the original and the reproduction. The same can be said for the pop star Michael Jackson, who, in his yearning for perfection, has changed his own appearance to the point where he appears today as a disrupted version of the original Michael Jackson.

Like Koons, Charles Ray is concerned with the idealization that is forced upon people by market forces. In the work Male Mannequin, he has taken as his point of departure a male mannequin. The mannequin’s non-distinctive, general appearance is intended to appeal to the consumer. The lack of particular characteristics or identity allows the customer to project his own dreams and desires onto the mannequin, and the products it is intended to advertise. By equipping the normally so sexually neutral figure with a replica of his own genitalia, Ray emphasizes sexuality as one of the foundational aspects of human identity. Therewith, the work can be read as a positive response to human nature’s strength and power of adaptability.

The art of Robert Gober also has a personal starting point, and several of his works are related to events from his childhood. Most are based on existing objects, yet in contrast to Jeff Koons’ Dolphin, Gober’s Functioning Sink is emphatically handmade. As such, Gober imbues a psychological aspect, which ties the mass-produced object to the artist’s own experiences and dreams. Rachel Whiteread also views the objects and spaces she is surrounded with, yet, by focusing on the negative spaces, she presents the everyday objects from a new perspective, and shows us the beauty in these non-places. Whiteread’s works are therefore good examples of how the artist can show us something over and beyond the predictable and well known, also by starting from already-existing pictures and objects.

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