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Sonja Henie Has Been An Ongoing Surprise For Me Ever Since I Moved To Norway.

(October 2020) The unfolding story of Olympic skater, Sonja Henie has been an ongoing surprise for me ever since I moved to Norway. I never knew much about her in terms of her professional skating career; Hollywood films; engagement to Hollywood Star/Piano great Liberace and then her later life marriage to her childhood friend shipping tycoon, Niels Onstadt. A story like this merit far more exploration so I set off to the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter on a short-day trip outside of Oslo. At the Kunstsenter, you can find the nuts and bolts about Sonja`s life. It is here most of her professional effects are on display, but I quickly discovered that the colorful story behind Ms. Henie is not where the power of her legacy lies. It’s found in the vision that she and her husband had for creating an environment for art to grow and ideas to hatch long into the future.

Sonja and Niels were rabid collectors of contemporary art and it`s here along the Oslofjord where their hope and support for arts live on. The pair left specific instructions in their estate as to how this art space should be used and developed in the decades to come. Down to the detail that this center is called Kunstsenter (art center) rather than museum. They wanted to make sure they did not get boxed into the constructs of what one thinks of as a typical museum. That being said on the surface, this is mainly a strong collection of contemporary Norwegian art with some standout international pieces. The highlight for me was Yayoi Kusama`s Hymn To Life. It is a perfect example of the legacy mapped out by Sonja and Niels to be forward thinking and to curate into the future to support groundbreaking artists.

The grounds of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter include the main building; a café/coffee shop; walking trails that feature their collection of sculptures; access to the beach at Høvikodden and in keeping with the mantra of the Kunstsenter; they also host a live performance series of all genres from their outdoor amphitheater. Any artform that prides itself on being experimental can thrive here.


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