My recent trip to Oslo to study Picasso's Regjeringskvartalet Murals, before they are completely removed from the buildings they were designed for, was a revelation! I had studied photographs of them over the years, and I knew that they were big, but actually they are enormous. Standing amongst them I better understood how they were made. Picasso collaborated with the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar in 1959, who executed the designs onto what I see now are thin plaques of concrete built on a huge pebble-dashed reinforced concrete panel. The design was then sand blasted away to expose the pebbles beneath and create a complex line that moves in the beautiful light of Oslo. Within the designs are references to faces, eyes, and shapes that will inspire my forthcoming workshop, ‘Picasso’s Paper Heads’.
The Picasso Regjeringskvartalet murals are located in the modernist Y and H block of the government quarter of Oslo.. The Y-block is one of architect Viksjø’s most beautiful buildings that was constructed in Naturbetong, a special concrete casting technique. The possibilities that lay in this new material with sandblasted surfaces were decisive for Picasso’s contribution and led to a 17-year long collaboration with Carl Nesjar.
The murals were subsequently listed as one of Europe's most endangered heritage sites in 2015 by the heritage organisation Europa Nostra following the Norwegian cabinet's vote to demolish the Y-block building. Picasso’s only other murals are in Barcelona and Stockholm.