Economics Museums Norway

Astrup Fearnley Museum criticised over oil company sponsorship

Outrage over private museum’s decision to accept funds from Lundin Petroleum

The new Astrup Fearnley Museum

Leading figures in the Oslo art world are at loggerheads after the decision by the private Astrup Fearnley Museum to accept sponsorship from Norwegian arm of the Swedish-based oil firm Lundin Petroleum. The Lundin family also owns the Swedish auction house Bukowski.

“Lundin is known as one of the worst in the oil business and is under investigation for breaching humanitarian rights in Sudan”, says Jonas Ekeberg, editor in chief of the largely state-funded art magazine Kunstkritikk. Ekeberg had also called on delegates to the Norwegian Cultural Council’s annual conference to boycott a closing reception at the museum on 14 November. After Ekeberg published an article titled “No to champagne in Tjuvholmen” (referring to the area of Oslo where the Astrup Fearnley is located), Sverre Gullesen, head of the board of Kunstnernes Hus, a local artist-run exhibition space, proposed an alternative event there, however few boycotted the reception at the museum.

Gunnar Kvaran, the director of the Astrup Fearnley, defends the deal. “Our authorities are cooperating with them and we do not see a reason for distrusting them,” he says. Gullesen disagrees. “We think it is important to have a discussion about this kind of collaboration,” he says, arguing that the museum should have waited for the outcome of the investigation before agreeing the deal.

Ekeberg also stands accused of double standards. Maria Veie, the owner of Galleri Maria Veie in Oslo and Trondelag says that as Kunstkritikk is almost entirely financed by the state and that the Norwegian government’s pension fund holds a 1.6% stake in Lundin Petroleum, Ekeberg should, in principle, reject his magazine’s subsidy. “One should be aware that, to a certain extent, we are all cultural producers subsidised by oil money in a time of global economic turmoil.” Although privately owned, her gallery is also in receipt of state funds.

Similar protests were made earlier this year when the Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm accepted sponsorship from Lundin Petroleum.

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