Background, The Idea The background for the project can be found in an extensive debate about the role of art in society. The county of Nordland, with its 240,000 inhabitants in 44 municipalities, did not have its own art museum.
During an idea workshop in 1988, the Norwegian artist Anne Katrine Dolven launched an idea that the county should have its own collection of contemporary art; a sculpture in each municipality. The fantastic landscape in this northern part of Norway was to function as a huge outdoor gallery for the artworks. The county's politicians and cultural administration found the idea so exciting that work on realizing it was started.
A group of professionals was invited to work further on the concept and select the artists who were to participate in the project. The group consisted of Per Hovdenakk, the then director of the Henie-Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden, Maaretta Jaukkuri, the then chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Bojana Pejic, critic and curator, Belgrade/Berlin, and Angelika Stepken, critic and curator, Berlin.
At the same time, contact was made with the municipalities to map their interest in such a project. The results of these processes, work plan, and budget were compared in a project plan in 1990.
The premises were to create an international collection of artworks that started with a strong presence of Norwegian artists, in addition to artists from the Nordic countries and the whole world. Since the artworks were to be permanently located in the county, it was important to avoid specific themes but rather achieve a breadth of visual expression in the collection. Not all municipalities in Nordland wanted to participate in the project, but Skånland municipality in the neighboring county of Troms wanted to participate because the municipality has close cooperation with the Nordland municipalities Tjeldsund and Evenes in other contexts.
The Process Each individual sculpture project started with the artist visiting the municipality where the artwork was to be placed. The purpose of this visit was for the artist to get information about the municipality, its history, current situation, and culture. It was also important for the artist to have the opportunity to experience the landscape and nature.
During the visit, the closer placement of the artwork was discussed. Land ownership and the municipalities' wishes had to be taken into account, and the extreme climatic conditions when the sculpture was permanently placed also had to be considered.
After this visit, the artist designed a sketch/plan for the sculpture. This proposal had to be approved by the artistic expert committee and presented to the municipality. The members of the expert committee were Per Hovdenakk, Maaretta Jaukkuri, Leo Janis-Brieditis, Anne Katrine Dolven, and Axel Tostrup. Brieditis and Tostrup are sculptors and represented the necessary technical expertise to evaluate the works.
The municipality and the project administration made a cost estimate and collaborated on practical and economic solutions. After this was approved, the actual work on the sculpture could begin. These processes varied from project to project. Some of the artists worked directly in the municipality, the artist's assistant(s) carried out the work, or the work was carried out, for example, in a quarry in the county. The municipalities were often involved in their technical department in this phase, and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has also contributed technical and professional assistance to several of the sculptures.
Information and Documentation Since its inception, the project has been followed with intense interest in regional/local press. In the beginning, the coverage was often very negative and critical, both with regard to the concept and the costs it would entail, but also the idea that an international collection of contemporary art could have a place in a spars landscape and nature.
During the visit, the exact placement of the sculpture was discussed. Consideration had to be given to property ownership and the wishes of the municipalities, as well as the extreme climatic conditions that come with the permanent placement of the sculpture.
After the visit, the artist would create a sketch/plan for the sculpture. This proposal then had to be approved by the artistic professional committee and presented to the municipality. The committee members were Per Hovdenakk, Maaretta Jaukkuri, Leo Janis-Brieditis, Anne Katrine Dolven, and Axel Tostrup. Brieditis and Tostrup were sculptors and represented the necessary technical expertise to evaluate the works.
The municipality and the project administration then made a cost estimate and collaborated on practical and economic solutions. After approval, the work on the sculpture could begin.
These processes varied from project to project. Some of the artists worked directly in the municipality, the artist's assistant(s) carried out the work, or the work was carried out in a quarry in the county. The municipalities were often involved in this phase through their technical department, and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has also provided technical and professional assistance for several of the sculptures.
Information and Documentation Since its inception, the project has been followed with intense interest in the regional/local press. At the beginning, the coverage was often very negative and critical, both with regard to the concept and the costs it would entail, but also the idea that an international art collection was being established in a relatively remote and sparsely populated area.
The project administration therefore decided to set up an information center in Sandnessjøen, which would provide information and documentation on the project. This information center opened in 1996, and the center's collection includes books, catalogs, brochures, and other publications, as well as photographs and other documentation related to the individual sculptures.
Conclusion The "Skulpturlandskap Nordland" project is an extraordinary example of how art can be integrated into the natural environment and create an impressive and unique cultural landscape. The project demonstrates the importance of art in society and how it can contribute to creating a sense of identity and belonging.
The project has received international recognition and has become a model for similar projects in other parts of the world.
Information and documentation
Since its inception, the project has been closely followed by intense interest in regional/local press. In the beginning, the coverage was often very negative and critical, both regarding the concept and the costs it would entail, but also the idea of introducing international art into the local community at a time marked by an economic crisis in the region. The project management regularly sent out information to regional, national, and Nordic press about the progress of the project. Openings were arranged to mark the completion of each sculpture. This was an important meeting between artist, artwork, and the local audience. The openings also received extensive coverage in local press and radio.
In most cases, the artist chose the location for the sculpture. After the sculpture was completed and present in the environment, there was a change in attitude, and a connection was created between the artwork and the local audience. Following the increasing local interest and experiencing this change in attitude has been an enriching experience for all those involved in the project. As the project progressed, the regional discussion focused on comparing the sculptures and their individual characteristics. The press also changed its tone, and the entire project was seen in a more positive and nuanced light. There was also increasing curiosity and expectation for the upcoming projects. Two to three of the municipalities joined after the first year's projects were completed. One municipality withdrew for economic reasons. An indication of increasing engagement in the production phase is that in one case, a local newspaper took the initiative to solve problems related to the technical execution of a work.