+Munch was an ambitious exhibition series at the Munch Museum in Oslo between 2015 and 2017, with six exhibitions exploring the works of Edvard Munch alongside works of the six artists: Bjarne Melgaard, Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Vigeland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jasper Johns, and Asger Jorn. The exhibition series was a collaboration between the curatorial team at the Munch Museum and a cross disciplinary team at Snøhetta executing exhibition design, book design and visual identity.
The exhibitions initiated a series of dialogue exhibitions at the Munch Museum that opened up a whole landscape of possible collaborations. In many ways showing Oslo and the art world the potential that was built into the new Munch Museum’s more flexible exhibition spaces and the value of the unique collection the museum sits on.
Our goal was to communicate with the audience, and treat the space with focused attention and a fresh approach, giving the visitors a valuable experience. We wanted to surprise, create unexpected experiences, build expectations from one exhibition to the next. Working with different temperatures in each exhibition from rebellious and challenging to delicate and sensuous – or from contemplative to playful. The series started with Melgaard and moved on to Van Gogh the impact couldn’t be bigger.
After the +Munch series finished Snøhetta created several ambitious exhibitions at the Munch Museum: “Between the Clock and the Bed”, “Head by Head — Cronqvist | Bjørlo | Munch”, “Towards the Forest — Knausgård on Munch”, “Emma & Edvard — Love in the Time of Loneliness”.
As a common visual playground for all the exhibitions we use the entrance to the exhibition area to mark the transition from everyday life into the exhibition itself, playing with perspective, colors and layered typography – and ultimately tactile effects.
“The +Munch exhibition series marked a shift at the Munch Museum. Suddenly the traditional museum was on everybody’s lips, at times visiting numbers from the local community increased by tenfold. How did the collaboration with Snøhetta come about?”
Stein Olav Henrichsen Director, The Munch Museum
2 Melgaard + Munch
Melgaard + Munch includes many fields of expertise, and spans book design, exhibition design with wall texts, and color scheme. As this is the first show in the series, most of the main alterations to the museum was executed now, such as rebuilding the entire entrance area to the exhibition spaces.
We built a portal consisting of 20 walls with the title logo of the exhibition superimposed on colorful pattern from the book, perfectly aligned only from one vanishing point. On the structural side we painted the ceiling black to give extra focus to the walls and the art displayed on them. Adjustments were also made to the temporary walls to heighten the feeling of precision in the exhibition spaces.
The first book of the series published with renowned art publisher Hatje Cantz in Germany was made to accompany the Melgaard+Munch exhibition. At first the catalog was thought to be a standalone element with an experimental approach. Our aim was to see if we could make Munch resemble Melgaard, a less obvious strategy than the other way around.
We developed systems for random image selection and geometry based matrixes for mixing multiple images or decomposing single images. When the exhibition was mounted, the book defined the attitude and the very experimental approach to presenting Munch’s works. As the first exhibition in the series this raised the bar and paved the way for a range of new possibilities with the following exhibitions.
3 Van Gogh + Munch
When welcoming Munch’s Dutch kindered spirit Vincent van Gogh we chose to use a gradient of blue colours for the museum walls. Van Gogh has never been exhibited in Norway with so many works. Striking encounters between the two masters gave lasting impressions on all visitors. The exhibition gave insight into how the troubled souls produced works with immense power long after their own lives ended.
4 Vigeland + Munch
The two most important Norwegian artists from Munch’s time – Vigeland a sculptor and Munch mostly painter and printmaker. They were friends in younger years but had a more competitive relation as adults. Showing these two contemporaries as extensively as this is a rare occasion, but with many overlapping motifs and themes in their works it is easy to find the connections. In the exhibition design we tried to use the colors of the interiors from the 1920s and 30s with an up to date twist. The exhibition shelves and tables were all very simple structures giving the artworks maximum focus.
The exhibition catalog was published by Belgian art publisher Mercatorfonds. Richly illustrated with an insightful essay by curator Trine Otte Bak Nielsen. On the cover Vigeland’s sculpture of a couple with Munch’s drawing of the same sculpture superimposed.
5 Mapplethorpe + Munch
Mapplethorpe + Munch is the fourth exhibition in the +Munch exhibition series at The Munch Museum. The exhibition explores similarities and disparities between Edvard Munch and Robert Mapplethorpe, both between the artists and their art.
Mapplethorpe’s art is manifested through the photographic medium, and the majority of the exhibited work is shown in black and white. A deep bluish gray color has therefore been chosen as the main color for the walls, accented by a flesh pink in the first room and exit area.
In the central room of the exhibition the walls are black to accommodate the most controversial images. The partition walls are parallel with the longest walls to emphasize the rectangular shape of the main rooms in the museum, and to contrast the somber mood of the walls they are painted white.
The extensive exhibition catalog is published with the Belgian art book publisher Mercatorfonds. For the cover we chose the flesh pink color with debossed black foil lettering a tipped-in double portrait. The book is laid out with images gravitating towards the bottom of the pages, leaving generous space above. Typographically, the power that lies in the font is used boldly.
The thematic divisions are the same as in the exhibitions, and follow the flow of the main essay by curator Jon-Ove Steihaug. The section with more technical information at the back of the book is printed on matte paper giving a subtly different tactile effect when you leaf through.
“There is a number of fascinating parallels and points of contact between the art of Edvard Munch and Robert Mapplethorpe. This complex relationship is what the exhibition Mapplethorpe+Munch aims to explore. With 141 works by Mapplethorpe and 95 by Munch the exhibition presents similarities between two great artists that have never been done before.”
The Munch Museum
6 Johns + Munch
The links between Munch and the most important American artist alive, Jasper Johns, are many. The most obvious is perhaps the bedspread in Munch’s famous self portrait “Between the Clock and the Bed” from 1940–43. The patterned bedspread is adapted by Johns and is central in numerous paintings and prints. There are other repeating traces of Munch in John’s oeuvre, even the symbiosis between printmaking and painting seems influenced by the example set by Munch
7 Jorn + Munch
Asger Jorn’s development as an artist was dramatically changed after he visited the large Munch exhibition at the National Gallery in Oslo immediately after the Second World War. The exhibition demonstrated to Jorn what a Nordic painting could look like – how a Nordic temperament was different than the continental art.
Creating exhibition design for greatest Danish and Norwegian expressionist artists gave a lot of freedom, but asked for dramatic measures. We invited young art students to decorate the entrance through an expressionistic “painting by numbers” workshop as well as interactive stations for the visitors.
The comprehensive 240 page exhibition catalog edited by Oda Wildhagen Gjessing was published with Belgian publisher Mercatorfonds and Museum Jorn in Denmark.