Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 October 2019

‘He tackles existential difficulties’ – Inside the Edvard Munch exhibition in Saudi Arabia

Edvard Munch: Landscapes of the Soul is the first show in the Middle East to be dedicated to the Norwegian artist

The first Edvard Munch exhibition in the Middle East has officially opened at King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Edvard Munch: Landscapes of the Soul features 40 works by the Norwegian artist, including Starry Night (1922-24), a large oil painting of the coastline at Asgardstrand, a small Norwegian port town, and a lithograph of his best-known work, The Scream (1895).

The exhibition, which has taken over Ithra’s Great Hall, is split into pavilions, each of which explores a different emotion – despair, loneliness, love, melancholy – in Munch’s work. There is a particular focus on his landscapes, which he used to reflect his innermost thoughts and feelings.

“Munch’s tenacious investigation of the soul is at the core of this exhibition,” it states in the introductory notes to the catalogue, the first about Munch to be printed in Arabic. “Throughout his career, Munch persistently scrutinised existential challenges of the self and the significance of personal experiences – such as love, loss, disease, anxiety and despair.”

Stein Olav Henrichsen, director of the Munch Museum in Oslo, said: “For many people, Munch has been the entrance [point] to art because he tackles the existential difficulties and challenges we meet as human beings. He is dealing with the emotions that we have to face, to resolve and to base our decisions on […] Munch has a language that is easy to understand, a modern language, a vibrant language, full of energy. It speaks to people all over the world.

“[We are] deeply committed to exhibiting internationally. We believe that cultural cooperation across national borders promotes knowledge and understanding between people from different countries and backgrounds.

Stein Olav Henrichsen, director of the Munch Museum in Oslo

“[We are] deeply committed to exhibiting internationally. We believe that cultural cooperation across national borders promotes knowledge and understanding between people from different countries and backgrounds. For us, the collaboration with Ithra is an event of major significance. We are grateful for this excellent and inspiring collaboration.”

Ithra’s director, Ali Al Mutairi, also said: “To have 40 works by such an influential artist as Edvard Munch on view, here at Ithra, including a lithograph version of The Scream, is a privilege and at the very heart of what Ithra was established to do.

“In addition to championing the local Saudi creativity scene, Ithra was founded to promote cross cultural exchange and provide the people of Saudi – and indeed the region – with compelling new cultural experiences. This latest exhibition certainly does this.”

Ithra is a Saudi Aramco initiative featuring a cinema, theatre and library. It was included by Time in its 2018 list of the World’s Greatest Places. Since it opened in June last year, more than 750,000 people have visited.

Edvard Munch: Landscapes of the Soul is at Ithra until September 3. For more information, visit: www.ithra.com

Updated: June 18, 2019 05:36 PM

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