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State visit to Australia: Opening of Her Majesty's exhibition

Speech given by Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of her exhibition "Inspirational encounters" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, during a state visit to Australia 23 - 27 February 2015.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This film presents where we have come today – at a temporary end on a long, winding road. The journey leading up to the Queen Sonja Print Award as it is described in this film – and to the exhibition here today – has been an interesting one.

It has been full of joy and frustration, of rich experiences and inspirational encounters with Norwegian landscapes, of hard work in collaboration with close art friends, - and learning by doing.

But above all: It has been filled with the deep pleasure of creating.

I would like to take you on a brief journey back in time to illustrate the path we have walked.

The visual arts emerged as an important part of my life early on. I copied Picasso in drawing class at school and had Matisse posters on my wall. I wandered through innumerable museums and galleries at home and abroad. My interest grew stronger. At the age of 15 I became a collector – and have been one ever since. But my respect for the artistic profession was for many, many years too deep to even consider taking the paint brush in my own hand…

For me, art provides a refuge. A pause from our strictly-organised lives, where we can surrender ourselves to the unexpected, to the inexplicable. Where we can be challenged and find recognition. Art gives each of us the opportunity to interpret our lives – and to open doors to closed places in our minds, perhaps places we didn’t even know existed.

There are many people and experiences who have helped to shape the path to where I am today. Some of the magical and inspirational experiences I have had hiking in Norway, you find on display at this exhibition: Like the mountains and coastline in Hamarøy and Steigen in Northen Norway, the woods outside Oslo, and the magical island of Spitsbergen. The trip to this island far away in the Barents Sea formed the artistic and financial basis for the creation of the Foundation Queen Sonja Print Award.

Afterwards I will show you a short film that tells the story of my revelation through the photo lens in a dark meltwater tunnel at Spitsbergen. But let me just state that after this trip, the Norwegian artists and my close friends, Ørnulf Opdahl and the late Kjell Nupen, encouraged me to embark on my own work – and thereby made it possible for me to fulfil my real dream: to establish an art award. My dream, the Queen Sonja Print Award, became a reality in 2011. And for this I will be forever grateful.

We started by searching for prize-winners in the five Nordic countries. In May 2014, the Queen Sonja Print Award became international – actually the largest graphic art award worldwide – and we now search for candidates all around the world. Some have even called it “The Nobel Prize of Graphic Art”. I believe that the time was ripe for a larger prize that highlights this form of art and recognises some of the most important graphic artists. An award of this magnitude may help to give graphic art the position I – and the Foundation – believe it deserves.

But now – let’s look into the process of how these pictures came to life. And then we will turn to Spitsbergen, where it all started.


(Shows a short film about Her Majesty's commitment to art, Spitsbergen and the establishment of the Foundation)


In closing, I would like to express my hope that you some day will have the opportunity to experience the beautiful nature of Norway – and even the remote, exotic island of Spitsbergen. I promise you: It will be an experience for life!

And now, I would like to invite you all to the exhibition showing my works from Norway. I hope you will enjoy them!





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King Harald visits the Australian Navy's training facility HMAS Watson in Sydney during a state visit to Australia 23 - 27 February 2015. Editing: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix