Special Nordic Exhibitions Across the Country This Summer

Happy summer! Welcome to a special edition of Nordic Events, this one featuring temporary in-person exhibitions happening across the country this summer (see this post for virtual events happening this summer). All these summer exhibitions intrigue me. Maybe you’re lucky to live nearby one or are traveling to the area this summer.

I had the opportunity to see Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980 when it was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) earlier this year. It was an interesting exhibition with a great variety of objects on display — furniture, tapestries, children’s objects, and decorative objects, just to name a few. I did have an issue with it, though; they used the terms “Scandinavian” and “Nordic” interchangeably. These terms do not mean the same thing. I discovered after the fact (in my own photo actually!) that they did address this issue in a sidenote. I wish I had noticed it while there because not knowing this tainted my enjoyment of the exhibition a bit. However, it doesn’t prevent me from recommending it, and you are forewarned about the use of those terms. Don’t miss the exhibition’s gift store. I walked away with a bag of delicious Scandinavian sockerbit candy. Maybe it will be available in Milwaukee as well (if not, they have an online store).

Which exhibition are you most interested in seeing?

New York, NY – Arctic Highways at Scandinavia House (Now – 7/22)

Currently taking place in New York City at Scandinavia House and continuing through July 22 is the exhibition Arctic Highways: Works by Twelve Indigenous Artists from Sápmi, Canada, and Alaska. “Arctic Highways brings together the artwork and handicrafts of 12 Indigenous artists from Sápmi, Canada and Alaska in an exhibition highlighting the thriving cultural and spiritual communities of the Arctic region.” While there, enjoy Nordic dining at the new Björk Cafe & Bistro at Scandinavia House. It features Scandinavian classics, American favorites with a Nordic twist, and seasonal favorites.

Also in New York City this summer, Scandinavia House’s Nordic Summer Jazz series returns. Some of Scandinavia’s most talented young jazz musicians, composers, and singers will perform weekly on Thursday evenings starting June 6 and continuing through July 6. This year’s performers include Kaisa’s Machine (Finland), Sara Magnusdottir Trio (Iceland), Mathias Jensen (Denmark), Risberg Stenmark Duo (Sweden), and Timothy Johnson (Norway).

Milwaukee, WI – Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980 at Milwaukee Art Museum (Now – 7/23)

Los Angeles area readers may recognize this exhibition from its run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) this past fall/winter season. Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980 is co-organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and LACMA in collaboration with the Nationalmuseum Sweden and the Nasjonalmuseet in Norway and is now on display in Milwaukee until July 23. It’s “the first exhibition to explore the extensive design exchanges between the United States and Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland during the 20th century.”

Seattle, WA – FLÓÐ (Flood) by Jónsi at National Nordic Museum (Now – 8/6)

If you’re in the Seattle area, consider visiting the National Nordic Museum to see the unique music, light, and scent installation FLÓÐ (Flood) by Jónsi. It is on display through July 30. Created specifically for the museum, “the exhibition highlights the natural connections between the coastal cities of Seattle and Reykjavik, which became sister cities in 1986. Changing environmental conditions within the gallery will engage the visitors’ senses of hearing, sight, and smell to transport them to the ocean.” And while there, of course view the permanent exhibition Nordic Journeys, where “you will meet ancient nomadic and contemporary semi-nomadic peoples, Vikings, explorers, emigrants, and expatriates—all with a story to tell.”

Minneapolis, MN – New Nordic Cuisine at Norway House (Now – 8/12)

Are you or will you be in the Minneapolis area? Consider visiting Norway House to view New Nordic Cuisine on display until August 12. Organized by Museum of Danish America, this traveling exhibition “explores the values that bring together traditional flavors, local producers, and innovative techniques in an exhibit that celebrates one of the most important cultural phenomena to come out of the Nordic countries in recent decades.” For those who can’t visit or want more, the Nordic Cuisine YouTube channel shares stories from recipe demonstrations to restaurant tours, to interviews with influential chefs and foodies, as a way to share these culturally important stories with all.

Williamstown, MA – Edvard Munch: Trembling Earth at The Clark (6/10 – 10/15)

Opening June 10 at The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is Edvard Munch: Trembling Earth. “Edvard Munch: Trembling Earth is the first exhibition in the United States to consider how the noted Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944) employed nature to convey meaning in his art. Munch is regarded primarily as a figure painter, and his most celebrated images (including his iconic The Scream) are connected to themes of love, anxiety, longing, and death. Yet, landscape plays an essential role in a large portion of Munch’s work. Edvard Munch: Trembling Earth considers this important, but less explored, aspect of the artist’s career.” It is on exhibit until October 15 when it moves to Museum Barberini, Potsdam, and then to Munchmuseet, Oslo, for the summer of 2024.

Decorah, IA – Sámi Dreams at Vesterheim (7/1 – 10/31)

Opening July 1 and running through October 31, Vesterheim in Decorah, Iowa, presents Sámi Dreams: Portraits of Resilience in the Norwegian Arctic, a traveling exhibit organized by Norway House. This exhibit will feature 18 photographic portraits of Sámi men and women in Scandinavia along with recorded interviews by researcher Randall Hyman that touch on indigenous rights, climate change, reindeer husbandry, art, and other topics. To accompany the photographs, Vesterheim has invited American artists to exhibit jewelry inspired by Sámi art, traditions, and history. While there, don’t forget to leave time for Vesterheim’s Main Building with four floors of artifacts and Heritage Park with 12 historic buildings (see Vesterheim’s Visitor Guide).

Portland, OR – Threads | Þræðir at Nordia House (7/8 – 11/5)

And finally, opening July 8 and continuing through November 5 at Nordic Northwest’s Nordia House is Threads | Þræðir Intertwined in Iceland: Textiles and Book Arts. “Books and textiles are the two forms of artistic expression that have the longest history and tradition in Iceland, but it is rare that books and textiles are intertwined. This exhibition showcases artists’ books and textile pieces by Icelandic artists and visiting artists who have been inspired by the country’s landscapes, people, language and textile traditions.”

Luckily, it seems I will be able to catch the Munch exhibition in Massachusetts right before it closes. Munch’s landscape paintings are actually some of my favorite ones of his.

Did I miss a special Nordic exhibition taking place this summer, or have you seen any of these exhibitions? Please share in the comments!

A Long-Awaited Return to Oslo: A Look at What’s New in 2021

I’m thrilled to have a trip to Oslo on my calendar for this month. It’s the first time I’m back since the summer of 2019, and it’s a rare visit back in a season other than summer. Might I get some snow or even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights? Both have made an appearance in Oslo already this fall. My highest priority will be spending time with my parents and family, but I do hope to explore some of what’s new in Oslo since my last visit also. There is plenty!


Photo by Einar Aslaksen / Munchmuseet

Top of my wishlist is a visit to MUNCH, the new Munch museum in the Bjørvika harbor area of Oslo dedicated to the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. It opened less than a month ago, and social media and news have been abuzz with the excitement of the long awaited opening. It’s been a work-in-progress since 2008. I’m intrigued by the architecture and location and eager to see it in person. Luckily, my father was quick to become a MUNCH member and has already secured tickets for a visit while I’m there. 😱

Diechman Bjørvika

Photo credit: Deichman Bjørvika

Bjørvika is not only home to the new MUNCH museum but also the new main public library Diechman Bjørvika (opened in March 2020) with its similarly striking architecture and an award-winning interior. In addition to extensive book collections, a movie theater, media workshops, gaming zones, lounges, work areas, a cafe, and a restaurant, it is home to the manuscripts of the Future Library, which will remain unpublished until 2114. Diechman Bjørvika was just named the best library in the world. Another must-see for me.

The Rose Castle

Photo by Sandbox / Roseslottet

Also on my list of Oslo must-sees for this visit is Roseslottet, or the Rose Castle, at Frognerseteren which opened in 2020. It is a large-scale art installation that commemorates 80 years since the German attack on Norway in 1940 and the 75th anniversary of Norway’s liberation in 1945. It “aims to tell the story of the German occupation of Norway and the basic principles of democracy, rule of law, and humanism that were then put out of force.” It is on display until December 31, 2022. Since it is higher up in elevation, this might be my chance to experience some snow while home.

National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design

Photo by Borre Hostland / Nasjonalmuseet

Another recent addition to the museum scene in Oslo is the new National Museum (Nasjonalmuseet) by Rådhusplassen/Akerbrygge opening June 11, 2022. It will be the largest art museum in the Nordic countries. I may not be able to view the exhibits quite yet, but the museum’s unique architectural characteristics will be admired, in particular The Light Hall which definitely stands out in the cityscape.

Oslo is a constantly evolving city and I’m impressed with how much has changed in the last several years. The pandemic doesn’t seem to have slowed it down, and I’m eagerly awaiting my return home to see what’s new.

Are you a first time visitor to Oslo? See my original page Oslo Activities and Attractions and my follow-up post The New and Less Traveled Oslo for suggestions of what to see when visiting Oslo and then add and substitute as you see fit. I’d love to hear what’s on your wishlist to see in Oslo.

The New & Less Traveled Oslo

new and less traveled sightseeing in OsloAre you headed to Oslo this summer, and maybe you’re looking for something besides the normal tourist sights? Here are some newer sights and hidden gems to consider.

Harbor Promenade – Havnepromenade

Oslo has a very new harbor promenade to explore. It runs 9 kilometers (about 5.5 miles) along the waterfront and hits many of the main sights of Oslo including Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge, the inner harbor with City Hall and Akershus Fortress, and the Opera House.

I look forward to exploring this route by bike with the family. I may finally have a chance to get a close-up look at the Opera House with its dramatic architectural features. I also hope to include a swim at Sørenga Seawater Pool and a meal at Vippa (a huge warehouse recently named one of the “10 hottest new restaurants in Oslo” according to eater.com).


A few years ago, a cousin of mine recommended a visit to Hovedøya, an island a short ferry ride from the city center known for its beaches, forests, and cultural heritage sights. There you can explore the ruins of a Cistercian monastery from 1147. In 1532, the monastery was pillaged and burned down, and the ruins weren’t excavated until 1840’s. You can also see two canon batteries from 1808 and two gunpowder depots from when the island belonged to the Norwegian army. It would be a nice excursion on a day with beautiful weather. Bring swim gear and a picnic (or eat at one of the cafes) and spend the day exploring. It also has plenty of geocaching opportunities (see map above with all the geocaches!) which is always a fun addition to an outing.

Museum of Oslo

Museum of Oslo is another museum I’d like to take the kids to. It’s located right in Frognerparken which makes it a convenient bike ride from my parents’ home. It presents the city’s history through models, paintings, and photographs. The museum’s exhibitions are mainly in Norwegian, but a free audioguide of “1,000 years in 20 minutes” is available in English, French, German, Somali, Punjabi, Polish, and Arabic as well as Norwegian.

What piqued my interest in bringing the kids was that the museum offers a special family activity called City Detectives (recommended for kids age 5 to 12). It’s an augmented reality app that allows visitors to get a glimpse of Oslo’s past. The goal is to find 10 historical stations in the exhibition “OsLove – City History for Beginners”. With the app, participants visit the 2-bedroom apartment of a big family, experience the power of Aker River, and see how the main street of Karl Johan has changed over time. The app is only available on site. You can borrow ipods or download the app to your own Apple device. You do not need to know Norwegian to use the app.

Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum

I learned about Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum from the book Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. We are certainly familiar with the work of his brother Gustav Vigeland whose bronze and granite sculptures are on display in Frognerparken, but I did not know about Emanuel.

The mausoleum is part of Emanuel Vigeland Museum. The museum’s main attraction is a dark, barrel-vaulted room, completely covered with fresco paintings. According to Atlas Obscura, “entering the mausoleum is a solemn, even haunting, experience. Even the quietest footstep echoes across the barrel-vaulted ceiling for up to 14 seconds. A flashlight is needed to reveal the room’s dark, painted walls.” I think this “hidden wonder” is best explored without kids due to the paintings that show “life from conception till death, in dramatic and often explicitly erotic scenes.” (Note: The museum is only open to the public on Sundays. Summer hours are May 15 through September 15, 12pm to 5pm.)

Damstredet & Telthusbakken Area

Damstredet and Telthusbakken are two roads known for their well-preserved and inhabited wooden houses built in the late 1700s and the 1800s. They are located near each other in the St. Hanshaugen/Gamle Aker area in central Oslo. There are other sights in the area as well, so a visit to the area can make a worthwhile self-guided walking tour. Very nearby is the medieval church Gamle Aker kirke (Old Aker Church), oldest building in Oslo, as well as Vår Frelsers Gravlund, the cemetery where writer Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch are buried. This excursion is easily combined with visit to nearby Mathallen, an interesting food court with specialty shops and cafés. And while at Mathallen, you can see if you can spot the Vulkan Bee Garden, which is two huge beehives on the rooftop between Mathallen and Dansens Hus next door.