Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to be invited to open this important exhibition of Emil Nolde’s works.
Culture is international; culture is a part of a modern foreign policy, directly or indirectly. The arts build bridges between states, nations and people, at different levels, between different times, between consciousness and the subconscious. The arts provide places to meet, learn, discuss – and to experience things that are even more important than foreign policy.
The arts tell stories, our stories, other nations’ stories of themselves – and of us, of where we come from. We are seen from abroad, Norway is seen from “the outside”.
This is one of the reasons why my Government is now preparing a white paper to the Storting (Norwegian parliament) on culture in foreign policy. We have invited the cultural community to contribute to this work by providing ideas and input, in a joint inspiring effort. And I invite those of you here tonight to contribute your ideas and comments.
In my previous capacity as Minister of Defence, I had responsibility for presenting a white paper on the relations between defence and culture, well aware of the fact that I had responsibility for several museums, orchestras and historic buildings and sites.
In culture there is not always a need for spoken language. People can communicate through a shared cultural language, at a deeper level.
This is what we are doing tonight. Thanks to the organisers of this exhibition, we have the chance to learn more about the life and work of one of Europe’s greatest painters – Emil Nolde.
The opening speakers have emphasised Nolde’s strong links to the Nordic region, including Norway. Emil Nolde is not alone in having these links. For centuries, Germany has occupied a central place in the cultural sphere from which the Scandinavian countries draw ideas and inspiration. And Germany still holds this place.
Our countries and artists have also influenced each other. And this influence has been mutually beneficial – in music, visual arts, literature, design and cinema.
In the 19th Century, most of Norway’s artists of any repute were trained in Germany. Several artists also settled in Germany to work, learn, be inspired, and see Norway from a distance. Art capitals such as Düsseldorf, Dresden, Berlin and Munich were magnets for aspiring artists from all over the Nordic region during different periods.
As we’ve just heard, Edvard Munch is one of the many Norwegian artists who learned, lived and worked in Germany. Munch had his breakthrough at the beginning of the 1890s as one of the most advanced avant garde artists in Europe. This was in large part due to the exhibitions of his work in Berlin and other German cities. And to all the publicity and networks they gave him.
It was also through these exhibitions that Nolde became familiar with Munch’s works, at quite an early stage. The admiration between Nolde and Munch was mutual. Munch also greatly admired the works of Nolde and the other German expressionists. Later on, this German movement was a major source of inspiration for a new generation of Norwegian modernist artists.
Today, Nolde and Munch are considered two of the icons of twentieth century expressionism.
One important characteristic of Germany today is its remarkable openness and receptiveness to international culture, situated in the heart of Europe.
Norway benefits a great deal from this. Germany is one of the most important venues for all forms of Norwegian art and culture today. For Norway’s artists, Germany provides inspiration, challenges and opportunities. Germany often serves as a springboard for entering the international scene.
Exhibitions like this remind us therefore of the crucial role German art and culture have played in the intellectual and artistic development of Norway. And they still do.
This exhibition on the works of Nolde is well timed. It sets the stage for next year’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth.
To conclude, I would like to thank the Stiftung Seebüll Ada und Emil Nolde for lending the paintings, Wintershall Holding GmbH for sponsoring the exhibition and the National Museum and curator Øystein Ustvedt for preparing and hosting this unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in Emil Nolde’s work.
With these words, I am delighted to declare the exhibition “Emil Nolde. In Search of the Authentic” open.