The very first festival edition


6–16 June 1991, Svolvær

When the idea of an art festival in Lofoten began being discussed, a national festival of art was already taking place in various parts of the country from year to year. The national festival was planned under the auspices of Norske kunstforeningers landsforbund [NKLF – Norwegian National Union of Art Associations], the umbrella organisation for the hundred-plus art associations in Norway which, some years earlier, had established a system whereby, an art festival was organised to coincide with the national organisation’s annual meeting. In the spring of 1989 Gerd Rødsand Bremnes – chairperson of Atelier Lofoten, the art association in Svolvær – applied to organise this festival in Svolvær in 1991. In May of the same year, Atelier Lofoten received a message from NKLF that they had been given the challenge of arranging the annual meeting and art festival for 1991.

In 1991, the festival attracted a large number of visitors. The fact that NKLF was co-organiser and brought 125 participants from around the country to attend its annual meeting helped the festival to attract much notice beyond the immediate region. The festival’s own information gave special attention to two major exhibitions: Atelier Lofoten’s Lofoten i billedkunsten [Lofoten in Visual Art] – an ambitious historical exhibition with works loaned from the National Gallery and several private collectors, with an appropriately substantial catalogue – and a collective exhibition, Nordnorsk samtidskunst [Northern Norwegian Contemporary Art] at North Norwegian Art Center, a recurring annual exhibition with members of North Norwegian artists’ organisations. In all, twenty one smaller and larger exhibitions in Svolvær and Kabelvåg were featured in the programme, along with an element that would be an audience favourite in the early festivals – approximately ten bronze sculptures borrowed from Norsk billedhoggerforening [The Association of Norwegian Sculptors] in Oslo and located in public spaces in Svolvær and Kabelvåg, which notified viewers not attending the exhibitions that the art festival was now underway. The sculptures were chiefly works by Norwegian artists born in the first half of the twentieth century. With the exception of these sculptors, the majority of exhibiting artists were residents of the region.