Løype! On the trail of an identity

30 November 2013–11 March 2014

The National Gallery

As an apropos to the Tour de Ski and the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the National Gallery is mounting a small exhibition in its project room. The subject is the phenomenon of cross-country skiing. To illuminate the role of this sport as a pillar of Norway’s national identity and a symbol of its unity, we have enlisted the help of a top athlete, two former stars of the ski trail, active young skiers and children from a multicultural class of 11 to 12-year-olds. Two of the contributing artists have also commented their own works. The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to bridge the divide between two cultural arenas – those of the art museum and elite sport – which are often perceived as worlds apart.

The selected pictures show skiers in various settings – from a quiet, contemplative ski outing to a gruelling competitive race. Tore Hansen’s monumental woodcut Fiskebein (Herringbone) from 2010 depicts skiers struggling up an incline, with the man in the lead raising his arms in anticipation of victory. Ingebjørg Une Hagen’s Renn (Race) (1984), inspired by her own participation in the Holmenkollenmarsjen ski race, convincingly captures the energy of a mass race start. The solitary skier in Runer (Runes) (1987) seems to be enjoying the silence of the woods through which he is passing – or is he, as Petter Northug suggests, simply short of motivation? The comments in the wall texts illustrate how much perceptions of the exhibition’s main works can differ, depending on the viewer’s background. The array of supplementary works covers a range of themes, from skiers in folktale and saga illustrations through to Ragnvald Blix’s 1919 cartoon of the ardent amateur skiers, Queen Maud and King Haakon.