Building a Collection

Overview from the exhibition with works by May Bente Aronsen, John Skognes and Elisabeth Haarr
Curator Frank Falch at Sørlandets Kunstmuseum reflects on collecting contemporary craft.

The exhibition Building a Collection opened at Sørlandets Kunstmuseum 25 March 2017 and shows a selection of contemporary craft purchased with funds from the art collector Nicolai Tangen. The exhibition is on show until 17 September. 

Kari Håkonsen: In-Between Space, 2001
Marit Tingleff: With Eyes Sensitive to Green, 2014

One of the main tasks of an art museum is to build a collection for the purpose of documenting art historical development. Sørlandets Kunstmuseum therefore has a responsibility to collect art from our own region and to make it publicly accessible. When the museum was established in 1995, it received, as a deposit, the holdings of the art gallery Christianssands Billedgalleri. This gallery, which was established in 1902 by the city’s art society, owned a collection consisting mostly of prints, paintings and sculptures. The collection was an important precondition for the establishment of a new art institution in Sørlandet.

Due to the strong position of craft in Sørlandet – especially in Kristiansand and Risør from the 1970s and onwards (this coincided with national developments) – Sørlandets Kunstmuseum's mandate stated that it should not only collect art, but also craft. In the Norwegian context, such a double mandate is unusual. From the start, it was important to build a collection of craft.

In 1995 the museum, with a limited purchasing budget, began acquiring works by regional and national craft artists, the latter category, in order to put the works from Sørlandet in an expanded context.

When the art collector Nicolai Tangen from Kristiansand set up the art foundation AKO Kunststiftelse, he made a large collection of Norwegian and Nordic art available to the region. This collection will be managed by Sørlandets Kunstmuseum through a collaborative agreement, and be for the enjoyment of everyone in the city and the region.

Tangen also gave the museum NOK 1 million in 2015 and 1 million in 2016, for the purchase of Norwegian craft. This gift, donated through his British charity AKO Foundation, has contributed to strengthening the museum’s crafts collection. The results of our purchasing activity are presented in this exhibition.

Irene Nordli: The Chair, Root and Carpet, 2016

Tangen’s donation has given us a unique opportunity to concentrate on expanding the crafts collection and to apply a clear regional and national strategy. The purchasing committee, consisting of the curators Else-Brit Kroneberg, Karl Olav Segrov Mortensen and Frank Falch, thoroughly reviewed the museum’s own collection and then selected a handful of craft artists. The aim has been twofold: to document the development of important craft artists already represented in the collection, and to add works by key artists thus far not represented.

The strategy has focused particularly on ceramics, textiles and jewellery art, categories that have enjoyed strong positions in Sørlandet. In the wider Norwegian context, textile art is often defined as a separate category situated between visual art and craft, but due to its strong regional position, it has been important to integrate it in our collecting strategy.

We have expanded the artistic perspective by adding newer approaches as well. We have purchased several ceramic installations that reflect a greater conceptual emphasis amongst Norwegian craft artists as a whole. In some cases, we have managed to purchase older works; this is often impossible due to lack of accessibility. An important part of the collecting process has been to orient ourselves both regionally and nationally.

The committee has several times had direct contact with craft artists. Conversations, often in workshops and in close contact with materials and work processes, have enriched us as curators. These meetings have given us important insight into the artists'practice and increased our knowledge of the many categories of Norwegian craft 

Tangen’s gift has therefore strengthened the museum’s work with craft, not only in Sørlandet but also in Norway as a whole. As an art institution for all of Sørlandet, we’ve been able to emphasise this important field in a historical perspective. This benefits the entire region. We want our public to gain insight into the process of collecting and to experience the result of our efforts. It is therefore important to present the purchases made with Nicolai Tangen’s gift in a separate exhibition, for the enjoyment of everyone in the city and the region.

Lene Tori Obel Bugge: In Storage, 2015
Sidsel Hanum, Caravane, 2016

Artists in the show: 

May Bente Aronsen, Sigurd Bronger, Lene Tori Obel Bugge, Eva Edwardsen, Eirik Gjedrem, Sidsel Hanum, Kari Håkonsen, Elisabeth Haarr, Torbjørn Kvasbø, Irene Nordli, Ole Morten Rokvam, Lise Schønberg, John Skognes, Anna Talbot, Ann Beate Tempelhaug and Marit Tingleff. 

Works by Eirik Gjedrem


Nicolai Tangen has created one of the largest private collections of 20th Century Norwegian art, mainly from the period 1930-1980. It now also includes works by artists from the other Nordic countries. The ownership has been transferred to the art foundation AKO Kunststiftelse, which has entered into an agreement with the museum to make the art available to the population of Kristiansand and the region of Sørlandet. The museum and the collection will be installed in the Kunstsiloen, a converted grain silo, next to the Kilden Performing Arts Centre, in a new urban development along Kristiansand’s waterfront.

Works by Ole Morten Rokvam