01 Sep 2003
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Christian Bjelland

Steward of the Arts in Norway
by Deborah Blagg

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As president and fourth-generation owner of Chr. Bjelland & Company, an industrial holding company headquartered in Oslo, Christian Bjelland has more than enough challenges to fill any given workday. But over the last decade, Bjelland has devoted himself to an equally important job on behalf of Norway and Norwegians: serving as steward of the country’s treasured national art collection.

A passionate contemporary art collector, Bjelland was a driving force behind the newly established National Museum of Art, which includes the National Gallery, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Museum of Design, and the National Museum of Architecture. The museum receives 95 percent of its funds from the Norwegian government, and Bjelland, the new museum’s non-executive chairman, believes “the concept of a national museum has inspired a greater willingness to provide funding for operational expenses and new buildings.”

Mindful that Norway’s Department of Culture will focus on attendance figures, Bjelland says the museum is working hard “to create excitement in the public space we occupy.” He notes that the quality of a museum’s core collection and curatorial initiatives are keys to success.

“Museums give people a sense of their roots,” he observes, “a chance to look back at their cultural heritage, which is especially important for a small country like ours. But they also give people wings to explore new aspects of their imagination. People need a push to develop that inner aspect, and that’s what museums provide.”

— DEB

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