Norway is set to open its new $650 million National Museum to the public on Saturday, unveiling what it described as “a vast permanent exhibition” of art through the ages that puts it on par with some of the world’s greatest museums.

Designed by German architect Klaus Schuwerk, the large building complex on the Oslo waterfront took eight years to complete and brings together the collections of five Norwegian art and design museums under one roof.

With 13,000 square meters of exhibition space and 6,500 artworks permanently on display, the museum will be the largest in the Nordic countries and in the same league as the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The architecture is charming, built with materials intended to last for centuries, the museum’s buildings are decked in blue-grey local slate and crowned with a translucent Light Hall which is covered in glass and marble.

The hall will be used for temporary exhibitions, and kicks off with an exhibition of artists currently working in Norway on themes of identity, belonging, nationality and democracy.

The museum’s planned shows include exhibitions of works by U.S. abstract painter Mark Rothko and Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, both in 2024.

Designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize greenhouse emissions, the museum is heated and cooled by water from the Oslo fjord on its doorstep.

The museum has been the subject of some controversy after the project suffered delays and needed government support when it ran out of cash. It was initially meant to open in 2020. The design has been criticized for its “blocklike” structure “

According to museum director Karin Hindsbo, “There has been a lot of debate, but that is how it’s supposed to be.”


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