Exhibition Programme 2021


November 19,2020

It is with pleasure that we announce Astrup Fearnley Museet’s exhibition programme for the full 2021. This is also the first year with director and chief curator Solveig Øvstebø in charge of the museum’s programme.

“In planning the exhibitions, I have considered the museum’s history and institutional position, which in recent years has had one foot firmly planted in the American contemporary art scene and the other in that of Norway. It was therefore a deliberate choice to invite one American artist and one Norwegian artist for the two main exhibitions this year. At the same time, I wished to highlight other notable currents in the museum’s extensive collection, so in the summer of 2021, we will present a new selection of works from the collection, in an exhibition spread across both of the museum’s buildings,” says Øvstebø.


Exhibition period: 5 February – 23 May

Nicole Eisenman, Death and the Maiden, 2009. ©Nicole Eisenman.

Astrup Fearnley Museet´s exhibition programme for 2021 begins with a major presentation of the American artist Nicole Eisenman. So far Eisenman’s largest solo exhibition in Europe, this show takes a deep dive into the artist’s practice from 2006 to the present and includes a number of entirely new works from 2020.

Since the 1990s, Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965) has carved out a place as a central figure in American painting, with a characteristic style that shifts between abstraction and figurative depictions of social environments. In a distinct manner, she makes use of art historical references, playfully reinvigorating elements from the Renaissance, Baroque and social realism, as well as German expressionism, linking these to the present in an idiom that is simultaneously astute and topical.

At first glance her works gives a colourful and celebratory impression, but on closer inspection, they reveal multiple layers of meaning and intricate narratives. While many of her stories are based on characters form her own life, Eisenman also draws attention to societal issues and political frictions. With rich humour, she touches on issues such as identity, sexuality, and politics – mixing in elements of popular culture and counterculture. Eisenman’s unique eye for the complexities of contemporary society and conflicting human emotions, results in sharp and striking observations of our modern reality.

Although best known for her paintings, Eisenman’s practice also includes characteristic sculptural works that have attracted much attention. In addition to a broad selection of paintings, the exhibition thus includes her imposing work Procession from 2018, an ensemble of nine individual sculptures. In their configuration and composition, the burlesque figures form an eclectic parade of different expressions and materials. This massive sculptural installation marked a shift in Eisenman’s practice resulting in a greater focus on sculpture. The artist herself has said: “I believed you could build better narrative with painting, but this work proved to me the same is possible through sculpture.” Here too, humour and satire are lurking in the background, as exemplified by the figure who occasionally emits a cloud of smoke from his rear end – a “post-Trumpian gesture”, as Eisenman puts it.

Nicole Eisenman lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Her works has been exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Kunsthalle Zürich and Ludwig Museum in Cologne. In 2019, her work was shown at both the Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennale. In 2015, she became part of the MacArthur Fellows Program and in 2018, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Exhibition period: 18 June – 5 September

Bruce Neuman, Run from Fear, Fun from Rear, 1972. © Bruce Nauman / BONO.

As Norway’s largest collection of international contemporary art, the Astrup Fearnley Collection includes seminal works by artists from around the world. Since its genesis in the 1960s, the collection has focused on selected artists, following their development in depth over many years and through different phases.

When Solveig Øvstebø took the helm as director and chief curator in May 2020, one of her priorities was to become thoroughly acquainted with the collection. In summer 2021, we invite you to an exhibition that presents a new director’s gaze at the collection. Encompassing both old favourites and lesser-known works, it emphasises the expressive range of the featured artists, through sweeping presentations of their respective practices.

The artist list is currently in preparation.


Exhibition period: 1 October – 9 January

Sissel Tolaas, Smell Re_searchLab, Berlin. Photo: Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.

In autumn 2021, Astrup Fearnley Museet presents a solo exhibition by the Norwegian artist and smell researcher Sissel Tolaas.

In the course of a single day, each of us breathes in and out around 24,000 times. These breaths carry crucial information we don’t consciously notice – invisible messages to the brain that immediately trigger emotions and memories. For Sissel Tolaas, smell is therefore an important and often overseen tool of communication.

Over several decades, Tolaas has developed a unique artistic practice that challenges the idea of the artwork as a physical object. Ever since the late 80s and early 90s, she has been deeply interested in observing chemical processes and the topic of change. Her works and projects do neither have a beginning nor an end, but are always in flux. Early in her career, these processes were generally formal, experiments and mathematical calculations that explored how different materials affect and are dependent of each other. Over the years, she has moved away from the realm of the physical and the visual towards that of the senses as tools and the immaterial as information. As early as the 1990s, she was creating works that focused on olfactory phenomena and reactions by exposing audiences to air currents and smells from various sources. At her studio and chemistry lab in Berlin, she is researching the complex topics of smell while exploring smell as a medium of artistic expression. Her investigations range from in-depth research and analysis, to the archiving and synthetic (re)production of smell molecules and structures. Tolaas has built up various archives of smellrecordings, an archive of 10,000 smell molecules, and Nasalo, a unique smell lexicon, so far containing 4,200 terms and expressions. In 2004, she founded the SMELL RE_searchLab, a laboratory that has collaborated with a number of scientific institutions around the world.

With an artistic and scientific practice that addresses the sense of smell rather than sight and hearing, Tolaas activates a different type of engagement and perception in her audiences. The exhibition at the Astrup Fearnley Museet will be no exception in this regard. Covering a broad range of works from Tolaas’ long career, it will include a selection of her early installations and works on paper, together with a comprehensive presentation of her later works on smell. The exhibition will explore the full breadth of a complex yet direct and intuitive researched based artistic practice, through which the concepts of process, time and change run like a unifying thread.

Sissel Tolaas lives and works in Berlin. Her projects have been shown internationally at biennales, museums and institutions including MoMA in New York, the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, Dia Art Foundation in New York, California College of the Arts, and Tate Modern in London. The exhibition at the Astrup Fearnley Museet will be the most extensive presentation of her work thus far.

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