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The Queen opened Kunsthall Svalbard

This evening Her Majesty The Queen opened the world’s northernmost art museum, Kunsthall Svalbard, in Longyearbyen. The new museum is a branch of the Northern Norway Art Museum.


The first artist to exhibit her work in the museum is Joan Jonas from the US, whose video work “Glacier” was inspired by the Arctic landscape and the novel Under breen (“Under the Glacier”), written by the Icelandic author Halldor Laxness. Parts of “Glacier” were recorded in Lofoten, and Kunsthall Svalbard has now acquired the work for its collection. 

The New York City artist is considered to be a pioneer in the field of video art and performance. She will also represent the US at the La Biennale di Venezia 56th International Art Exhibition in 2015.  

Contemporary art of a high international standard

Queen Sonja arrived at the Svalbard Museum and Kunsthall Svalbard on Friday evening. She was greeted by Tove Veierød and Knut Ljøgodt of the Northern Norway Art Museum and Tora Hultgreen, Director of the Svalbard Museum, which provides space for Kunsthall Svalbard. Mr Ljøgodt explains the establishment of the museum’s branch at Svalbard on the museum’s website: 

“Our mandate is to bring art to the entire northern region of Norway. We also want an exhibition hall dedicated to contemporary art of a high international standard. Svalbard, which is currently attracting international attention for many reasons, was a natural choice.” 

Opening ceremony

Ms Veierød delivered a welcome speech, before Chandra Varona, Tørris Koløen Bakke and Håvard Bilsbak gave a moving musical performance in the world’s northernmost art museum.

The musicians played the String Trio in B-flat major by Franz Schubert, followed by the fourth movement of Serenade in C major for String Trio by Hungarian composer Ernő Dohnányi.

Following the performance, Mr Ljøgodt gave a presentation on the new building and explained its significance. Thereafter, Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey delivered her opening remarks, and Queen Sonja then formally opened the Kunsthall Svalbard and the exhibition “Glacier”.  

Artist-in-residence programme

In addition to the exhibitions, the museum will begin an artist-in-residence programme funded by the Cultural Business Development Foundation which has been established by the SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge savings bank. The idea is that the visiting artists will find inspiration in the unique location and that their stay will lead to a new exhibition project or work of art. 


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