Demolition Imperils Picasso Murals

OSLO -- Europa Nostra, the European heritage organization, has placed a building housing murals by Pablo Picasso on their under threat priority list.

The works of art were created in collaboration with the Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjar, and made by carving and sandblasting the concrete then staining to further enhance the line. The installation consists of five murals: The Beach, The Seagull, Satyr and Faun, and two versions of The Fisherman.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network hope that these artworks can be preserved.

The 1969 brutalist buildings that contain the murals were caught in the car bomb planted by the white supremacist Anders Breivik here in 2011. The Norwegian Government now wants to level the buildings to make way for a new complex of government offices.

Designed by Norwegian architect Erling Viskjø in 1969, the buildings could be considered typical mid-century Communist-style.

A panel of experts has been consulted about removing the murals and reinstating them in a new complex, however art experts have shown their concerns stating that the murals were designed by Picasso for those site-specific buildings, and that they should remain in-situ.

The government is considering proposals to demolish the buildings, which several leading artists have described as ugly and “reminiscent” of Communist eastern Europe.

"We now have a golden opportunity to get rid of them” argued the painter Dag Hol. Surveyors have said the cheapest way to deal with the buildings would be to demolish them. Under their proposals, the murals would be taken down brick by brick and reinstalled elsewhere.

The rights to the murals are owned by the Picasso family foundation and they must be consulted about their future. A lawyer for the Picasso family has insisted the works were specifically created for the buildings and cannot be “just taken down”.

Claudia Andrieu, a legal expert with the Picasso Administration, said they have not been approached but are "open to dialogue".

The murals represent Picasso's first attempts at this type of public art.

Both structures were damaged when Breivik set off a van bomb at the foot of H block in July 2011, killing eight people. It was the beginning of a rampage that left 77 dead, mostly young people who were massacred on the island of Utoeya.

A poll by Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang showed public opinion was divided, with 39.5% supporting demolition, while 34.3% thought the buildings should be preserved.

The plan faces stiff opposition from Norway’s directorate for cultural heritage which insists that the buildings should be repaired and the Picassos kept on their original sites, whatever the cost. “We can’t demolish the best parts of a cultural era just because we find it ugly today,” insisted