Norway, government decides to tear down building with Picasso murals, which will be relocated


On Wednesday, the Norwegian government gave the green light to demolish theY Block, a building in Oslo that houses a number of murals by Pablo Picasso (Malaga, 1881 - Mougins, 1973), which the Spanish artist designed in the late 1950s and late 1960s for the two buildings that are part of the Regjeringskvartalet (“Government Quarter”): the Y Block (from 1968) and the H Block (from 1959), both designed by architect Erling Viksjø (an important Scandinavian exponent of modernism in architecture), and so named because of the shape of the building. The murals were then materially realized by Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar (Larvik, 1920 - Oslo, 2015), a collaborator of Picasso.

The Y Block was, like the H Block, the site of government offices (in particular it was home to the Ministry of Education), and was heavily damaged during the July 22, 2011, attacks, those that led to the Utoya massacre: the bomber, Anders Breivik, had placed a van, a Volkswagen Crafter, near the buildings, after filling it with explosives, and the detonation had severely damaged the Y Block, so much so that it has not been used since, and the Norwegian government had already considered demolishing it (a poll conducted in 2013 had seen 40 percent of responses expressing support for demolition). The decision to demolish the building, for safety reasons, had been made in 2014, and at the same time, however, the government had also determined the relocation of Picasso’s two large murals, the Fisherman and the Seagull.

The decision was not easy, and it was also opposed because the Y Block represents an important architectural testimony of the 1950s-1960s (a petition against the demolition had also been launched, which was able to gather 28,000 signatures). Thus, after several postponements and delays, the final word came last Wednesday: the government of Norway, we learn from Agence France Presse, assessed that further delays would lead to cost increases and delays in reconstruction projects. As of yet, no date has been decided on when demolition will begin.

Pictured: the mural of Picasso’s Fisherman on the Y Block. Ph. Credit Helge Høifødt

Norway, government decides to tear down building with Picasso murals, which will be relocated
Norway, government decides to tear down building with Picasso murals, which will be relocated