On June 11, the new National Museum opens its doors, and it is the exhibition “I call it art” that marks the grand opening.
Sami blind zone
Those who visit the National Museum from June to September will experience everything from theater, sculpture, performance and painting to installations, music and video. Several Sami artists are in the exhibition.
One of those who has worked on putting together the opening exhibition is curator Randi Godø, a job she has done together with curator Geir Haraldseth.
Until now, Sami art has not been strongly represented in the museum’s collection, and some voices have been criticized for Norwegian art institutions’ lack of commitment to the Sami offer.
Godø takes self-criticism on the hitherto lack of focus the National Museum has had on Sami art.
– We have probably woken up a little more, as I see it, says Godø.
She says that the Sami for them have been in a kind of blind spot, but that they have now internally turned their focus to the fact that Sami art is also a natural part of contemporary art in Norway.
– We have made several purchases of Sami art for the collection in recent years and it is an important step we are now taking, Godø says.
Does this show that the National Museum, like many others in this country, has too little knowledge about the Sami?
– Absolutely, and we have a lot to learn and are still not trained, Randi Godø answers.
Criticism of Norwegian institutions
In connection with the opening of the Sami pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the Sami artist Synnøve Persen was critical of the lack of interest in Sami art in Norway.
During the opening of the Sami pavilion, Persen was present, and she told NRK at the time that Norwegian art institutions have never seen the value of Sami art.
– I feel Sami art is better known abroad than at home in Norway, said the artist, who was also pleased that Sami art received a lot of attention in Venice.
The 147 artists have been selected after open submission, but also after outreach trips around Norway.
– We have traveled around the whole country, and in Sápmi we have visited Sami museums to find artists who are not in the National Museum’s collection, says Randi Godø.
They visited the artists in their studios, and had a good collaboration with, among others, RiddoDuottarMusea and Sámi dáiddaguovddáš.
What do you think the Sami art adds to the new National Museum?
– It gives us an opportunity to convey contemporary art and art history from Sápmi, a perspective that we have not been good at collecting or communicating before, says Randi Godø.
Glad for increased focus
One of the artists participating in the opening exhibition is artist and curator Hilde Skancke Pedersen.
She thinks it is very nice that the curators did outreach activities in connection with this exhibition.
– The fact that they visited people all over Norway shows that they want a greater perspective within national borders, she says.
For Skancke Pedersen, it was great to be invited to the exhibition, because she sees that the National Museum wants to show a diversity of the art that exists.
Have Sami artists themselves been good enough to become more visible?
– Previously, people were met with a shrug, and art critics from the national media were rarely seen in exhibitions in Sápmi. The thinking has been very centered, says Skancke Pedersen.
Closes holes in history
Curator Randi Godø agrees that dthere is increased visibility of Sami artists, they are more talked about and debated.
She mentions artist Máret Ánne Sara as a strong and clear voice, not only in Norway, but internationally.
– Large premises give us the opportunity to bring in more art, and the Sami perspective will become more visible, says Godø.
She says that this is a process that the National Museum can work on more in the future. They have overlooked Sami art, and lacked knowledge about it.
– The National Museum changes the representation of contemporary artists and closes some gaps in art history by showing works by Sami artists, both in “I call it art” and in the group exhibition, Randi Godø concludes.