Since New Year Kunstnernes Hus, “the Artists’ House”, has itself taken over the running of its first-floor restaurant. Despite one of the best views in Oslo – Slottsparken in the evening sun – operations had been in decline in recent years, and the old Restaurant Arcimboldo, which opened in 1999 and was so popular among media and culture workers, closed down in 2009. From 2010 until today the catering chain Det Virkelig Gode Liv has run the restaurant. Now Kunstnernes Hus will run the place itself and the aim is to create a socially active meeting place for debate, film and video shows, concerts, literature, audio and performance art, one-off exhibitions etc.
Chairman of the Board Sverre Gullesen put all the ambitions of the process in a nutshell in his opening speech when he exclaimed, “Take the House back!”
The new tenants include the art bookshop Torpedo, the gallery concept One Night Only, the Norwegian Academy of Fine Art and the micro-brewery Dronebrygg, now established in the bar, who celebrated the opening with a drink they called “Dronegjøk” in three variants – draught beer with vegetable juice and other nutritious ingredients. The “surprise chef” brought in for the occasion was Marius Notvik, who created a goulash after a recipe by the well known artist Willibald Storn. Jon Løvøen provided the music.
Torpedo opened its new branch on Thursday 19 April and will still have its main outlet at Kunsthall Oslo in Bjørvika, while the branch at Kunstnernes Hus will offer a selection of titles. One Night Only, on the other hand, is leaving The Young Artists’ Society for Kunstnernes Hus. The Academy of Art will have its student gallery in the old Academy Room at the back of Kunstnernes Hus. The Academy students’ lecture series Open Forum is also moving to Kunstnernes Hus, while the Oslo National Academy of the Arts already has a monthly lecture series called “Agenda” there.
At some point in the early summer the restaurant proper will open with a 4-6-month “chef-in-residence” programme. The aim is simple, unpretentious food options with an inexpensive profile. Tenders will be invited as soon as possible and the chefs will be assessed by a jury of chefs and artists.
Despite the mass migration of art-related activities, artistic director Mats Stjernstedt is not worried that people will feel that Kunstnernes Hus is colonizing the Oslo art scene.
“I don’t see any problem with this. I think it’s incredibly positive that the artists are heading back to Kunstnernes Hus. And I’m quite sure there are enough interesting alternatives,” says Stjernstedt to Kunstkritikk.
The Swedish artist and poet Karl Holmqvist was responsible for the opening project in the foyer with the work Words are People. Holmqvist worked with text written directly on the old restaurant walls and gave a reading on the opening evening. In subsequent weeks this programme is to be followed up with exhibitions, an art quiz, debates, film shows and more, according to Mats Stjernstedt.