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Frightful message for Trondheim Kunstmuseum (Norway)

March 24, 2014

The controversy started when director Pontus Kyander, who is currently in the process of leaving his position at the museum, wrote that “Nationalist parties – like the Progress Party – are dangerous; they belittle concepts like human common sense, human rights and equality.”


In February 2014, Pontus Kyander, director of Trondheim Kunstmuseum got a text message from his boss, Suzette Paasche , executive director of the Museums of South Trøndelag warning him about his comment on the Progress Party (FRP), reported The Nordic Page.

“Now you have started a hell of a racket . Prime Minister and Minister of Culture, called the Chairman . And I have got call from culture department. It appears that you have called FRP nationalist party . I thought we agreed that you should avoid this until you quit .”

The text message from Paasche was presented in Klassekampen, Aftenposten and Adressavisen on Thursday.

In seemingly democratic and transparent Norway, a case of government involvement and pressure on a museum’s organization around a negative formulation about the government coalition party Fremskrittspartiet or Progress Party (Frp), has caused a storm in the media and national politics.

The conflict had already begun in 2013, after the Director of Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Pontus Kyander, included in his preface for the Spring Programme the Norwegian Progress Party as part of a nationalist trend in Europe and thus part of a dangerous development.

Recently, the relatively large Progress Party (Frp, about 17% of the votes) has surprisingly become a part of the government in a coalition with the Right (Høyre), the Liberals (Venstre) and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti). The Progress Party consider itself liberal conservative (http://www.frp.no/nor/The-Progress-Party/Principles), although some of its members seem to be much more active in anti-immigrant positions, like in the recent case of the initiative to build a wall in Greece against immigrants to Europe: http://www.dagbladet.no/2013/06/21/nyheter/utenriks/asylpolitikk/schengen/frontex/27813698/

Since Pontus Kyander became the director in Trondheim he changed exhibition policy and invited artists to exhibit artworks that question the nation state and other complex sociopolitical issues. Works like Adrian Paci’s film “The Column” or Libia Castro and Olafur Olafsson neon sign “Dein Land Existiert Nicht” placed on the façade of the museum in 2014 are examples of this.

Recently, Norway’s Culture Minister, Thorhild Widvey had a hearing about this case.  Widvey, a member of the Conservative Party,  declared she “regretted” phoning the Chairman of the Museums in Sør-Trøndelag Board, after the outgoing Trondheim Art Museum director called the Progress Party dangerous and nationalistic. Widvey also claimed she was merely seeking information, despite the fact that she was accused of hindering freedom of speech.

You can read more about the case here:

http://www.tnp.no/norway/politics/4326-museum-director-warned-for-his-comment-on-frp

http://www.newsinenglish.no/2014/02/14/culture-minister-regrets-museum-call/

http://www.aftenposten.no/kultur/Widvey-ble-grillet-om-museumssaken-7483364.html#.UynNGV6Intg (in Norwegian)

The situation of artists and cultural workers in Norway seems to be not so bright .The organization of Norwegian artists (NBK) held a protest last year against the policy of government cuts in the cultural sector. It seems that the richest oil country in Europe is implementing neoliberal reforms according to the same model of austerity politics as in many European countries and following the reactionary cultural policy trend.

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