Discover Oslo's Art Gems
Student-led gallery hopping is certainly one of the best ways to do it!
Looking forward to seeing more of Oslo’s art scene? Estetisk Aften (Aesthetic Evening) offers the perfect opportunity to do so with a series of events where students come together to explore multiple art exhibitions in a single evening.
How I learned about Estetisk Aften
I absolutely love going to art exhibitions! Having lived in three different countries, they have always made me feel at home, no matter where I am. When I arrived in Oslo, I quickly visited some of the biggest art museums in the city, including The Munch Museum, The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, and The National Museum.
However, going deeper into Oslo’s art scene was not as easy as I had hoped. One afternoon, I bumped into my Finnish friend, also an exchange student, who invited me to join her for an Estetisk Aften. How lucky! I had finally found a fun and easy way to explore more art!
Estetisk Aften — Everything You Need to Know
The student association for art history students, “Kunsthistorie ved Universitetet i Oslo,” has been organizing Estetisk Aften since 2019. During these events, students go gallery hopping, that is, they explore a string of art exhibitions together.
Inger Hansen, a master’s level art history student at UiO, has been the leader of the “Kunsthistorie ved Universitetet i Oslo” and the organizer of Estetisk Aften since the autumn semester of 2022. “Through the student association, I want to create different arenas and events for like-minded students to meet and get out more. Estetisk Aften is a free and open event, which also gives everyone the opportunity to meet students from other programs,” shares Inger. Estetisk Aften was one of her favorite events before Covid, and she is still very fond of it.
In our conversation, Inger gave me insight on the origin of Estetisk Aften: “Our professors often tell us that art history students do not see much art outside of textbooks, so in order to change that narrative, Estetisk Aften came to be!” She sometimes checks out social media accounts of Oslo’s art galleries to find information on the upcoming vernissages (exhibition openings), “But for the most part, we use the Oslo Art Guide, since it is the most convenient.”
An Estetisk Aften Walk Through
On March 3rd, 2022, I had my most recent Estetisk Aften experience where a group of students, Inger, and I explored four art galleries in Oslo’s rising cultural hub Bjørvika.
“QSPA Inspirational Award” at QSPA Bispevika
The first exhibition we saw that evening was at QSPA Bispevika, a gallery located on Operagata street (you guessed it, it’s named after Oslo’s Opera House). On my way to the gallery, I walked past luxurious shops and modern architecture and when I reached it, I could see the Munch museum just a few steps away. Instead of traditional walls, QSPA Bispevika has big glass blocks that allow you to have a glimpse at the art, flowers and beautiful wooden interior from the outside. Upon entering, friendly staff members explained to us that QSPA stands for "The Queen Sonja Print Award," which is awarded to contemporary artists in the field of graphic art. The founder of “The Queen Sonja Print Award” and the “Queen Sonja Art Foundation” is Her Majesty Queen Sonja (Queen of Norway).
The exhibition showcased works by artists who had won the “QSPA Inspirational Award,” which is given to Nordic artists working with printmaking that are either still pursuing their art education or have recently completed it. I was thrilled to see a gallery dedicated to print in the heart of Oslo! This form of art often doesn’t receive the love it deserves from bigger museums, so it is heartwarming that the QSPA Foundation promotes and supports it.
We walked through the exhibition together, having a close look at each of the prints. I fell in love with a 2018 artwork by Julie Ebbing which features a person wearing a pearl necklace and a top with the label “AVOCADO DARKNESS.” I liked its overall edgy black and white aesthetic. The more I looked at it, the more clues I could find for the world in which the person shown was living: a tequila bottle, skeleton hands, and the very true statement “NEVER TOO MUCH GUACAMOLE.”
“VÆRT HER FØR” at Kösk
The second gallery that we visited, Kösk, is located a two-minute walk away from QSPA Bispevika, also on Operagata street. Kösk is managed by Karina Værstad and exhibits Norwegian contemporary art.
In the modern and bright gallery space, we joined the vernissage “VÆRT HER FØR” (BEEN HERE BEFORE). The exhibition featured artworks by Nicolay Aamodt, exploring various nuances of memories and remembrance through layer after layer of fragments, symbols, and colors.
The space was lively, and we couldn't help but notice three little dogs — two of them were patiently following their people around, and one of them was snuggled in its owner’s arms (can you spot the pug in the photo above?).
What I liked most about each art piece was how balanced they are. The different colors — brown and pink, blue and orange — complement each other greatly. I looked at the abstract forms and shapes and wondered what types of memories the artist associates with them — happy or sad, recent or the ones from a distant past.
“Meg at Paracelsus” at VI, VII Oslo
Walking a bit further up Operagata street, we reached VI, VII Oslo to see Rob Kulisek’s exhibition “Meg at Paracelsus.” VI, VII Oslo’s founding director is Esperanza Rosales, and it’s a gallery exhibiting contemporary art.
In the white and minimalist exhibition space, we explored fourteen artworks by Rob Kulisek. Each piece has two visual layers. The base layer is a black and white photo of different staff members of an exclusive and very expensive rehab clinic. The second layer consists of images of the social media star Meg Yates, wearing smudged black eyeliner and posing in a way reminiscent of Myspace era selfies.
These were the artworks that made me feel the most during this Estetisk Aften. It’s hard to explain why, but I guess they took me back to my teenage angst in the 2010s, where I listened to Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die album all day every day (and all the unreleased songs!) and was spending a lot of my free time on Tumblr.
"Practising Water" at Oslo Kunsthall
From VI, VII Oslo we walked a couple of minutes on the architecturally stunning Rostockgata before reaching the last art exhibition of this Estetisk Aften, "Practising Water" at Oslo Kunsthall. What a magical exhibition space! It was as if we were swimming among textiles, colors, sounds, and moving images. The artist, Robel Temesgen, explores the relationships between water and the societies that have evolved around it. The most mesmerizing piece for me was a video projection of a water current floating on a huge textile. It was such an interesting feeling to be deeply immersed in nature while being physically located in an art gallery.
The artworks sparked wonderful conversations in our group. We talked a lot about the intersection between textile art and technology, how a computer glitch can look very similar to a textile pattern. I remembered Andreas Gursky’s Untitled, where he presents a field of tulips from a bird view perspective, and showed it on my phone to the others. Who would have known that flowers could look like a carpet and an abstract oil painting at the same time! We continued our conversation and touched on various topics such as the AI companion app Replika and uncanny social media ads.
A pleasant surprise at the end
And so, the Estetisk Aften on March 3rd came to an end — or so I thought. Inger, I, and one of the girls from our group headed home and took a T-bane from Jernbanetorget. As we were discussing everything we experienced this evening, a man with a black puffer jacket sat next to us. When he left the train, I was told that he was the Norwegian musician Ramón. Discovering an artist because they traveled in the same T-bane as me was definitely a proper end of a very aesthetic evening!