On reports from Vietnam. Children are doused with burning napalm, their skin is charred black and they die

  • Artist: Kjartan Slettemark
  • Creation date:
  • Object type: Painting

About

In 2005, this work by Kjartan Slettemark was included in a list of the twelve most important works of Norwegian art from the postwar era. The story of this painting began in 1965, when Unge Kunstneres Samfund (UKS), an artistrun gallery and members’ organization in Oslo, invited Slettemark to exhibit a picture for their “Image of the City” project, a display case on stilts that was placed in front of the Storting (the Norwegian parliament) in Oslo.

The picture Slettemark chose to display was On reports from Vietnam. Children are doused with burning napalm, their skin is charred black and they die. The work was based on a newspaper report from the Vietnam War that described children burning to death from napalm. This made a profound impression on Slettemark, who says he created the assemblage to protest the meaningless violence committed against children.

The work was vandalized already on its first day of showing. All in all it was attacked no less than three times, by three different men. UKS insisted that the work was to remain on display for its allotted duration, and in order to discourage further attacks, the work received police protection for the rest of the exhibition period.

The attack came to serve as the focal point for one of the most important art debates in Norwegian history. The event sparked off endless discussions in the media either for or against American involvement in the Vietnam War, for or against modernist or political art, and for or against the right to desecrate the American flag.

The reactions to his Vietnam picture were so fierce that Slettemark decided to become a Swedish citizen.

Text: Stina Högkvist

From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0

Artist/producer

Kjartan Slettemark

Billedkunstner

Born 06.08.1932, death 13.12.2008

Work info

Other titles:
Av rapport fra Vietnam. Barn overskylles av brennende napalm. Deres hud brennes til svarte sår og de dør (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
PVA, polyester, papir og tekstil på plate
Material:
Dimensions:
  • Height: 102.5 cm
  • Width: 101 cm
  • Depth: 13 cm
Keywords:
Classification:
Acquisition:
Donation 1982
Inventory no.:
MS-02788-1988
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Photo:
Børre Høstland
Copyright:
© Slettemark, Kjartan/BONO