Bjarne Melgaard’s show at the Munch Museum in Oslo has resulted in wide ranging coverage in the Norwegian press–some of it positive, a lot more of it sensational, going so far as to accuse the artist and the exhibition’s organizers of pedophilia. There have been calls for portions of the show to be censored, or for the entire installation–which pairs Melgaard’s work with Munch’s–to be taken down altogether. According to a report in Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, someone has reported the show to the police.
Stein Olav Henrichsen, the museum’s director, confirmed the complaint to Aftenposten, saying it centered around Melgaard’s video Gym Queens Deserve to Die. The work has stirred controversy in the past in Europe, as documented in an essay published by the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, released in conjunction with that museum’s 2010 show “Jealous,” which was Melgaard’s first retrospective. In the essay, “Bjarne Melgaard in the Norwegian Media 1994-2009,” Hanne Beate Ueland writes:
Melgaard’s first movie All Gym Queens Deserve to Die was shown at the Moderna Museet [in Stockholm] as part of the group exhibition ‘Organising Freedom’. The film was reported both by Swedish Unicef and the child-care organisation Ecpat for breaking child-abuse laws, and was shortly withdrawn from the exhibition. The reason for these strong reactions was a scene in which a man sucks on the arm of a baby girl. Also provoking controversy was another scene in which a woman with Down’s syndrome kisses a man.
Aftenposten reports that the identity of the person who filed this new complaint with police remains unknown. Lars Toft-Eriksen, the Munch Museum show’s curator, told us in an email that “the museum is being investigated by the police for criminal [offenses],” and that they are “awaiting the report from the police.” He added that for now the exhibition is “running unaltered.”