8 lesser known facts about Vigeland Sculpture Park
The Norwegian capital has its fair share of both parks and works of art, but did you know that it's home to the world's largest sculpture park?
Nestled in the quiet Frogner neighbourhood, the Vigeland Sculpture park is home to Gustav Vigeland’s unique creations and a must-see attraction when you visit Oslo.
Below you’ll find 8 lesser known facts about this unique park!
It’s the world’s largest sculpture park by the same artist
While there are some larger sculpture parks around the world, Vigeland is the largest one where all the statues have been created by the same artist. Not only did Gustav Vigeland make all 212 bronze, granite and cast-iron sculptures displayed in the park, he also designed the outline of the park itself. Talk about a man with a vision!
Credit: Christopher Hagelund | Visit Oslo
It was never supposed to exist
Originally, the idea was that Vigeland’s statues would be placed in downtown Oslo. In particular one of the two centerpieces of the park, the Fountain, was supposed to be in front of the Norwegian Parliament and the other, the Monolith, was supposed to be above Oslo Central Station.
But as Vigeland kept creating more and more statues and his fame increased, the city decided to keep all of them near the artist’s own studio, where there was an open parkland back then. Vigeland agreed and thus the Vigeland Sculpture Park was created!
The sculptures symbolize every aspect of human life
When you’ll visit the park, you’ll notice there’s more to these statues than it meets the eye. There is the Fountain, for instance, one of the centerpieces of the park, where the 20 statues surrounding the running waters represent a different stage of human life, from toddler to old age.
Or the Monolith, where 121 human figures are intertwined, reaching upwards to the heavens. Or the Wheel of Life, a sundial that represents eternity… So many smart details to pay attention to!
All 212 statues depict human beings of different ages, sexes and sizes, stuck in different and sometimes perplexing poses. Vigeland wanted his statues to capture all the aspects of a person’s life, both in a literal and in a metaphorical sense. And he made them all naked, so that they remain timeless.
Credit: Tord Baklund | Visit Oslo
Some of the images may shock you
But although philosophical, the sculptures at Vigeland Park are also irreverent — and some of them are quite shocking! For example, there is a statue of a man throwing a woman over his head and a statue of another man fighting with… four babies!
The statue is actually called Man Chasing Four Geniuses and the babies are supposed to represent evil spirits… although some say it’s supposed to represent the burdens and responsibilities of fatherhood.
Touching one of the statues is supposed to bring good luck...
...But you shouldn’t do it. One of the most famous statues of the park is Sinnataggen, a statue of an angry baby that clenches its fists. If you step close, you’ll notice that one of the baby’s hands is shining. That’s because many tourists believe that touching the statue’s hand brings good luck.
But since the statue is made from bronze, the excessive touching prevents the natural oxidation that takes place in the rest of the statue… Which means that the more people touch this statue, the more its hand will appear to be shining. Local experts are actually worrying this might affect the statue in the long run — so try to resist the temptation to hold the baby’s hand!
Credit: Thomas Johannessen | Visit Oslo
There’s also a museum almost no one knows about
Of course you wouldn’t be wrong to say that Vigeland Park is, in itself, an open-air museum of sorts. But there’s also an actual museum, located just outside the park, which most people either neglect to visit or are not even aware it’s there in the first place. (But hey, not you.)
Inside the Vigeland Museum you’ll have the chance to see the complete collection of Gustav Vigeland’s work: you’ll see the plaster originals for the park’s sculptures, his other creations and from time to time, interesting exhibitions of other works.
The museum is located in the space where Gustav Vigeland used to live and work, so visiting will give you a unique insight into his life.
Credit: Didrick Stenersen | Visit Oslo
The collection took twenty years to complete
As you can imagine, creating 212 sculptures and designing a park to display them at, takes time. In Vigeland’s case it took twenty whole years — and sadly, the park was only completed after his death. But all his sculptures were donated to the city of Oslo, so even though he didn’t get to see it himself, his legacy lives on in the millions of people who visit the park every year. Which brings us to our last point...
It’s free to enter!
Vigeland Park is unique in yet another way: not only is the park completely free to visit, it’s also open year round, 24/7.
Credit: Didrick Stenersen | Visit Oslo