The Modern Eye: Opening remarks
Ladies and gentlemen,
“I don’t believe in art that doesn’t force its way to the surface through man’s need to open his heart. All art, literature and music must be created from the artist’s lifeblood. Art is our lifeblood.”
These words by Edvard Munch reveal an artist who refused to compromise. Edvard Munch helped us to recognise ourselves as individuals. To see ourselves as full-blooded men and women with the full range of emotions and feelings: happiness and sorrow, pain, passion, jealousy, love, hate, melancholy, despair, frustration, fear, loneliness and a sense of belonging. He enabled us to acknowledge – at least to ourselves – the truth about our lives, even our innermost secrets.
Edvard Munch didn’t take the easy path. He trained a lens on the soul of the individual. But first, he directed it at himself – mercilessly investigating his inner depths. The image of a lens is apt in this context. As this unique exhibition shows, Munch was an active photographer and film maker. In addition to presenting several of Edvard Munch’s most famous paintings, “The Modern Eye” also addresses some of his less known artistic sides and includes forgotten treasures: drawings, sketches, sculptures. It sheds new light over his work, and may help us to understand him better.
Germany was Edvard Munch’s second home. He stayed here for several years, spent his summers in Warnemünde, and returned many times throughout his life. In Germany, Edvard Munch found recognition, challenges, friendships and inspiration. This was where he experienced his breakthrough as an artist and won international acclaim. But he wasn’t accepted straight away. In 1892, his first exhibition in Berlin gave him an equivocal reputation as “Der Fall Munch” (tilfellet Munch). He sold almost no paintings, but made good money on the ticket sales – as everybody was curious to see this scandalous painter and his “distasteful” work.
120 years later, we are gathered here today at Schirn Kunstalle. We are celebrating a painter who put the individual at centre stage, who showed us what it means to be human in all our complexity. A painter who has inspired artists all over the world with his timeless work.
This 120 years long journey is worth bearing in mind when we look at, and judge, contemporary art. Before closing, I would like to acknowledge the Centre Pompidou, the Schirn Kunsthalle, the Munch Museum in Oslo and the curators for realising “The Modern Eye”. The National Gallery in Oslo, the Bergen Museum of Art and a number of private owners have also made valuable contributions. And I would like to thank the people of Frankfurt for their warm welcome.
I hope we will have the opportunity of welcoming you to Norway in 2013, when we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birth, and hopefully getting to know him even better.