Hå gamle prestegård – contemporary art centre in Norway village

If footloose trav­eler is eager to visit an art exhib­i­tion, he usu­ally prefers rest­less cit­ies and their squares with old towns. Being more spe­cific, it is suit­able to pick Paris, London, Berlin in this case or some other towns which are rich in their cul­tural resources. Local sup­ply should be able to sat­isfy even the biggest enthu­si­asts. However, dif­fer­ent objects in the shade of the giants also exist and these objects aston­ish one at the strength they have, sup­ply they can offer and even their loc­a­tion. Tiny con­tem­por­ary art cen­ters. I was able to visit one this sum­mer, and the impres­sion left still makes me rest­less today. I will not be com­par­ing scales or names, but I would love to tell you about the windy shore of the North Sea with a light­house and small yet amaz­ing con­tem­por­ary art centre in the Southwest of Norway.

Hå is a name of the com­mune in which the centre works and other words of this name lit­er­ally mean “an old farm of a priest” (once a king gave this farm to a priest). It doesn‘t sound like a place related to art, does it? This impres­sion doesn’t change after see­ing the build­ings which remind a neat homestead rather than an art centre. These build­ings are traced back to 1637. A com­plex has been burnt away for a few times but it was rebuilt again and again. It was quite a big stock­breed­ing farm for many years and it also included the first lib­rary in the sur­round­ings. Still, the most import­ant cul­tural date for this place could be the 9th dec­ade of the pre­vi­ous cen­tury when the build­ings were bought by the Hå com­mune. Then they were renewed and revived for a new life as a sym­bol of local his­tory and culture.

Actually, tour­ists are not the only ones who are fond of this place nowadays. Local res­id­ents love to while away their Sunday after­noons walk­ing the shore of the North Sea, vis­it­ing Obrestad light­house nearby or going to “Hå gamle prestegård”. Exhibitions in the centre are renewed every month, con­certs, lec­tures, lit­er­at­ure even­ings and other events are held. It is also pos­sible to pur­chase some art­works there or drink some cof­fee while watch­ing a wav­ing sea and exchan­ging par­tic­u­lar impres­sions left by exhib­i­tions. There are boards out­side fit­ted espe­cially for this pur­pose. Contemporary art centre is a pretty import­ant object for the loc­als since there’s no need to go to met­ro­pol­itan in order to sat­isfy cul­tural needs. However, this is not the only point of cul­ture in an unusual loc­a­tion. A small con­cert hall is nearby, some­where between forests, cab­bage fields and the sea, some events are held in sur­round­ing light­houses which people reach by their own boats. Eventually, sim­ilar ini­ti­at­ives may be found in Lithuania, at least in the build­ings which used to be the centre of cul­ture for a long time.

We’ve vis­ited “Hå gamle prestegård” on a windy Sunday to see a new exhib­i­tion which gained plenty of good reviews in a local press. The main topic of the exhib­i­tion was col­lect­ing stuff but not in a lux­uri­ous way as it may seem at first. Walking through low ceil­ing rooms we reach an accom­mod­a­tion full of hardly related things. Shoes, two old pet­rol sta­tion appar­atus, framed art­works of fam­ous Banksy, old candy boxes, vinyl records or works of Philippe Starck. Despite being so dis­sim­ilar, those things some­how man­aged to find their own pos­i­tion and gave sense to col­lect­ing as a very mul­tipur­pose hobby. Hobby, con­tain­ing almost everything: from expens­ive jew­elry to but­tons or paper post­cards. We couldn’t argue with that statement.

It’s almost like an end­less fairytale as long as that end is not a wooden roof which already star­ted to peel off. Some kind of anarch­istic kid could eas­ily dis­rupt this fairytale by barely one kick. All that fra­gile stuff func­tioned as an entity in the attic of the farm where the primary back­ground was logs sup­port­ing the con­struc­tion of the roof instead of ascetic white walls. As Mona Nordaas her­self states, it was an install­a­tion where sep­ar­ate ele­ments take an abso­lutely new implic­a­tion. And I took it for granted.

There was also a chance to take a look at Norwegian abstrac­tion­ist Terje Uhrn art­works. He is one of the most fam­ous Norwegian artists whose works are dis­played at vari­ous gal­ler­ies in Norway. At the end of the 8th dec­ade Terje Uhrn was linked to a group of artists called The Lambretta which per­formed mis­cel­laneous exper­i­mental install­a­tions. Clear forms of his art­works stood out from the gen­eral con­text of an exhib­i­tion and it was the most intense part of it. After leav­ing this exhib­i­tion I real­ized what a great dif­fer­ence there is between the ways in which art reaches its audi­ence. Or maybe it’s due to a last­ing atti­tude of people. Elderly farm­ers tak­ing care of hun­dreds of cattle day by day man­age to find a few hours on Sundays and instead of feed­ing cows they dress in their best trousers and head to a con­tem­por­ary art exhib­i­tion. Families with chil­dren come to “Hå gamle prestegård” where they can be con­fid­ent that kids won’t be bored in a spe­cial play­ground. After open­ing the exhib­i­tion you are warmly wel­comed to a pic­nic right here, just on the corner. No posh cos­tumes or exag­ger­ated lux­ury. The key aspect here is the unex­pec­ted. Place which brings ordin­ary people closer to cul­ture. Maybe it’s the loc­a­tion, premise, his­tory or simply an atti­tude. If one day you are acci­dent­ally driv­ing the 44th road by a coast­line of the North Sea, it might turn to be your story of the unexpected.

We are grate­ful to Milda Lukoseviciute for the photographs.

Kristina Alijošiūtė
About author:
Kristina Alijošiūtė
Kristina Alijošiūtė is Art Pit’s editor and blogger, also contributing in design solutions. She mostly focuses on quality and freshness of topics, but also values motivated irony and ability to stand out. Writing was always more a pleasure than an obligation to her. She also respects those who are not afraid to write subjectively. Kristina ... Read further >
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