Picasso murals under threat
Government contemplates tearing down buildings damaged during terrorist attack in Oslo
By Clemens Bomsdorf. Conservation, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 14 January 2013
The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage fears that Picasso’s first monumental concrete murals, which were made between the late 1950s and the early 1970s for two government buildings in Oslo, may be destroyed. The buildings were severely damaged during the deadly terrorist attack in the Norwegian capital in July 2011. The government is now considering whether to demolish the Modernist buildings that form the regjeringskvartal or government quarter.
“If the buildings were demolished and the murals integrated into new ones or brought to another site, they would no longer be the works Picasso intended,” says Jørn Holme, the head of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage.
After the attack on 22 July, Rigmor Aasrud, the minister for government administration, reform and church affairs, publicly asked whether it would be better to demolish the buildings. Holme and others think Aasrud’s question suggests that she wants to tear down the buildings, although a spokesman for the ministry declined to comment when approached by The Art Newspaper last month. A few months before the attack, the government and the directorate agreed that the buildings (known as Y- and H-block) should be listed, but moves to protect them were not followed up after the bombing.
The ministry has asked several architects to propose suggestions for the regjeringskvartal, providing options to both retain and demolish the buildings. The architects will present their proposals this summer. A report by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage concluded that, despite the bombing, the buildings are not unsafe and can still be used. “We still think that listing is appropriate. The buildings [are not only important] because of the works of art [that were] made especially for them, they are also a cornerstone in Norwegian architectural history and stand for the country’s development as a welfare state after the Second World War,” Holme says. The structu¬res were built in the 1950s and 1960s with breccia—a building technique using natural concrete—which was popular in Norway after the war.