Press release -

Demolishment of Picasso building in Norway

Press release from: The Norwegian Association of Architects, National Trust of Norway, The Oslo Architects Association, Støtteaksjonen, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design and The Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, November 11th

Government building with rare Picasso murals in Oslo is decided to be demolished despite massive protests.

The terror attacks in Oslo and Utøya in Norway July 22nd 2011 made an impact all over the world. Journalists from every part of the globe reported as the devastating facts became clear; in all 77 people were killed, many still in their teenage years.

In Oslo the Government Building H-Blokka (the H block) was severely damaged by the terrorist’s car bomb. Situated next to the Y-blokka (the Y block), the two buildings form an architectonic unity. Despite the bomb, the Y block remained structurally sound.

The greatest loss since World War II
After the terror attack, the Norwegian government has been planning for a new, bigger and modern government quarter. Their plans for the area include demolishment of the Y block.

“Tearing down the Y block constitutes the greatest loss of a cultural heritage monument in Norway since World War II”, director Hanna Geiran at the Directorate of Cultural Heritage, the public administrative body for cultural heritage in Norway, has stated to Norwegian media.

The decision has been met with massive protests from the art and architecture community in Norway, as well as internationally. The Norwegian UNESCO Commission, ICOMOS and Europa Nostra have implored the responsible minister to rethink the cabinet’s decision.

Demolition with unclear plans
Several questions are still not answered. The plan is to cut the Picasso murals out of the building and place them elsewhere in the new government quarter. How this is to be done, is still unclear. The discussion is ongoing regarding a method to remove the large murals and store them safely. In spite of this, the demolition of the Y block is set to start in the nearest future.

Massive demonstrations
A petition initiated by National Trust of Norway has been signed by more than 80 institutions including the Picasso museums in Paris, Antibes and Malaga, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Serpentine Galleries in London – as well as all major Norwegian art institutions, architectural associations and the artists Olafur Eliasson and Bjarne Melgaard among others.

The appeals to save the Y block with its famous Picasso murals could have stranded, as the county governor on Monday November 11th dismissed the appeals against the government’s decision to demolish the Y block. All the same, the people of Norway, manifested in the group “Støtteaksjon for å bevare Y-blokka”, refuses to accept the decision, and further demonstrations will take place in front of the building in the weeks to come. A formal letter has even been sendt to the Royal Family in Norway and an online petition has gathered more than 23.000 signatures to save the Y-block:


The modernistic breakthrough in Norway:
The tall H block and the lower Y block was both constructed in natural concrete, a new building material introduced by the architect Erling Viksjø in the 1950s. The H block, is also a result of the breakthrough of modernism in official Norwegian architecture. The art decorations in natural concrete were radical and sensational at its time, and the architecture and artwork are intimately and indivisibly connected.

The first monumental murals by Picasso:
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was invited by the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar (1920-2015) to participate in creating the concrete artwork. Picasso drew five murals specifically for the H and Y block. The most famous of the murals is called “The Fishermen” and adorns the façade of the Y block.

The co-operation between Carl Nesjar and Pablo Picasso developed and continued for 17 years until Picasso’s death. Their co-operation in the Governmental building in Oslo has been a prerequisite for Picasso’s official monumental art in the times to come. Apart from Oslo, we find Picasso’s monumental work in Barcelona, New York, Stockholm, Paris, and Jerusalem.


Annicken Vargel, Head of Communications, The Norwegian Association of Architects,

Trond Rødsmoen, National Trust of Norway,

Tone Selmer-Olsen, The Oslo Architects Association,

Hanne Sophie Claussen, Støtteaksjonen,

Erik Fenstad Langdalen, Professor, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design,

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Gunhild Varvin

Press contact Head of Communications Communications and Press +47 402 17 573