by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
December 12, 2004
Stenersen Collection, Rasmus Meyers allé 3: The collection donated by the Norwegian businessman and art collector Rolf Stenersen (1899-1978) now actually resides in Lysverket (see below), with the functionalist building designed to house it given over to temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists as well as the museum’s café. Stenersen collected art throughout his life and in 1944 wrote the definitive biography of his friend Edvard Munch, several of whose paintings are on display. His disappointing experience attempting to place the book with publishers led him to conclude that as much as they neglected contemporary literature, museums were ignoring contemporary artists. He therefore became a major advocate for modernists within Denmark, collecting their works alongside those by such European masters as Joan Miro, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso (to whom an entire room is devoted), Wassily Kandinsky, and his favorite, Paul Klee. The collection as a whole provides a strong overview of post-war European art.
Rasmus Meyer Collection, Rasmus Meyers allé 7: While Stenersen sought to advocate contemporary artists, his fellow businessman Meyer (1858-1916) aimed "to establish a gallery . . . showing the development of Norwegian art history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries." Meyer took as his model the collection Heinrich Hirschsprung assembled of Danish painters and consequently assembled works by great names in Norwegian art. Of particular note are works by J.C. Dahl, regarded as Norway’s first great fine artist for his renderings of its countryside and his followers, and the naturalist Christian Krogh, whose depictions of social injustice and use of color prefigured Munch (to whom an entire room is devoted.) Extensive explanatory notes on the artists and their techniques further enhance the collection and its achievement of Meyer’s vision.
Lysverket, Rasmus Meyers allé 9: The architecturally stunning Lysverket originally served as the administrative headquarters of Bergen’s electrical power company and was only opened in its present form in 2003. The Tower Room, which holds temporary exhibitions, has pride of place in this regard. In addition to the Stenersen collection, Lysverket houses the museum’s general collection of everything from medieval icons to the paintings of Yoko Ono. It also contains works by Dahl and Munch, and it’s particularly interesting to see them exhibited among their European contemporaries.
Together, the three collections and the numerous contemporary exhibitions constitute a thoroughly engrossing whole. While photography is not allowed inside, thumbnails of works and further information may be found on the museum’s excellent webpage.
From journal Bergen's Natural, Cultural, and Historical Beauty