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FATE OF OSLO’S TREASURED PICASSO MURALS UP IN THE AIR

Posted in Art Recovery/Theft

As recently reported by The Art World Daily, two buildings of Oslo’s government headquarters damaged during the July 2011 terrorist attacks are now at the center of debate as to their cultural significance.  In particular, in its decision of whether or not to demolish the affected buildings, the city will need to consider several concrete murals by the famed late artist Pablo Picasso that are integrated into the structure of the government buildings.

The Picasso art work consists of five murals designed during the period of the late 1950s and the early 1970s using the breccia technique.  Such technique was once a popular mid-century method that relies on natural concrete.  Picasso formed a collaboration with Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar to execute the designs as he was not familiar with the technique. 
 
One of the Oslo murals entitled The Fisherman (1970) is set on the facade of the Y-block building and was not damaged during the explosion.  However, the other Picasso murals integrated into the H-block building were heavily damaged.  As neither building was officially listed, there is a possibility of complete demolition such that the buildings could be entirely reconstructed from ground up.
 
The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage has openly expressed concern that the Picasso murals will be destroyed should the buildings be demolished and reintegrating them into new building structures is not a viable option.  According to the Directorate’s head, "[i]f the buildings were demolished and the murals integrated into new ones or brought to another site, they would no longer be the works Picasso intended."  An independent report conducted by the Directorate concluded that the buildings are sound enough to renovate and may still be used despite the bombings. 
 
A number of architects have been approached by Oslo’s government to create solutions for the government buildings, which include retaining the original building structure.  The solutions are expected to be presented this summer.
 
The Picasso works of art in concrete may be viewed here.