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Munch | Warhol: Opening speech

Speech given by Her Majesty Queen Sonja at a preview of the exhibition Munch|Warhol and the Multiple Image, Scandinavia House, New York, 25 April 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,
distinguished guests,

It is indeed exciting to be back in New York City and Scandinavia House – as always!

I greatly enjoyed my last visit here in 2011, when I opened the exhibition on leading Nordic artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Today I would like to congratulate the American–Scandinavian Foundation on the excellent exhibition this year, when we celebrate the birth of Edvard Munch – 150 years ago.

During the last two years, I have had the pleasure of opening the major Munch exhibition The Modern Eye in three cities – Paris, London and Oslo. It has been fascinating to see the huge amount of attention it has received and the crowds of enthusiastic visitors it attracted – almost 1 million if we include the Frankfurt exhibition. Munch is still relevant – as is Warhol.

Munch turned his gaze inwards, and explored our deepest emotions. Warhol, on the other hand, peers out from the surface so to speak. One of Munch’s famous quotes is: “No longer will I paint interiors with men reading and women knitting. I will paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love.” At the other end of the spectrum we find Warhol, who said: “I am a deeply superficial person.” We see the differences, and yet, there are remarkable similarities between these two highly innovative artists, such as their repetition of works, the way they presented themselves, and the fact that they both used photography as studies. This exhibition shows us the strong connections that exist between the works of the very early modernist Munch and Warhol’s pop art.

As we celebrate Munch this year, this encounter with Warhol’s series of screen prints is a remarkable experience. Warhol’s prints from 1984, produced 13 years after his visit to Oslo, truly resonate with the works of Munch. He copies Munch, but the result is unique. He captures Munch’s intensity, and then interprets the works in his own way. “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself,” Warhol once said. Maybe this is one of the reasons why one of the world’s most productive printmakers chose to copy these masterpieces.

The works of Munch are introspective, and focus on topics such as anxiety, death, love, jealousy and melancholy. Warhol expressed his philosophy in a single sentence: “When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums.” And we can ask ourselves: What is the difference between fine art and commercial art?

Indeed, what is art? Maybe it is in the eye of the beholder. What the eye perceives defines the relationship between the work of art and the object. Maybe Warhol’s interpretation of Munch helps us to reflect on his work – and perhaps to see art it from a different perspective?

I would once again like to congratulate Scandinavia House and the American–Scandinavian Foundation on this great exhibition. In 1982 I had the chance to meet Andy Warhol in his studio, The Factory. Unfortunately, I never met Edvard Munch – I was a bit too young for that. Tonight, however, I can meet them both – and I am therefore delighted and proud to declare the exhibition “Munch|Warhol and the Multiple Image” open.



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