This article was first published online by Wallpaper* Magazine on 1 Jun 2015
Around the waterfront in Oslo, you can experience what the director of Norway’s Institute for Contemporary Art has called the city’s ‘dynamic moment’. Scaffolding signals a new wave of cultural destinations that will join existing gems such as the Opera House, the ambitious Ekeberg sculpture park, and a high concentration of artist-run spaces.
Beside the Oslofjord is the sweeping glass roof of the Renzo Piano-designed Astrup Fearnley Museum, which now houses an intriguing collection of contemporary art, titled Love Story. It belongs to Arctic explorer, lawyer, publisher, and all-round thrill-seeker Erling Kagge.
Having sailed repeatedly across the Atlantic, conquered the ‘Three Poles’ – North, South, and the summit of Everest – and reached the cover of Time magazine, Kagge began to seek challenges from the world of art. The result is a collection that emphasises youthful anarchy, pop euphoria, and probing post-conceptual artists.
Kagge’s collection includes comprehensive bodies of Raymond Pettibon, Franz West, Tauba Auerbach, Trisha Donnelly, Sergej Jenson, Klara Lidén and Wolfgang Tillmans. In a book he has published for the exhibition, A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art, Kagge compares collecting to his exploits as an explorer. He likes to gamble on artists early in their careers, buying them in big quantities, and moving on when they become established.
The main theme of Kagge’s collection is not a theme at all, but an unresolved quality. ‘I find it difficult to love what I understand. Great art to me is strange’, he says, ‘I strongly believe you sometimes have to break rules to feel free’. He likes artists who embody their work, and has a special affinity for Trisha Donnelly: ‘It is as though her personality has taken form’.
While most people who turn to collecting because they’ve done everything else have terrible taste, Kagge’s boldness and curiosity have served him well.