Art of Queen Sonja
A printmaker, whose work will be on display next year at Scandinavia House in New York and the Barony Rosendal in Norway, the queen’s passion for the arts started early. As a teenager in Oslo, she and her friends would go to see the latest exhibitions and meet with artists.
Queen Sonja stands in front of one of the six ‘Celebrities’ portraits that Andy Warhol made of her at The Factory in 1982
Entering royal life in 1968 did little to change that. In 1982 on a trip to New York, the then-crown princess stopped in at Andy Warhol’s Factory and decided—on the spur of the moment—to sit for a portrait. One of the six paintings that came from that session, in Warhol’s signature brights, now hangs opposite her desk in the Royal Palace.
We spoke to Queen Sonja, 77, about composing a collection, being a feminist and training the artistic eye.
Art for me is a retreat. I have been fascinated by visual arts since I was 14. One of my early purchases was “Stone and Moss” by Jacob Weidemann in 1961. Today, my collection consists of more than 700 works; many of those are prints.
I bought [“For Example 1”] by Liv Ornvall in 1998 and it is very much linked to my own life. The picture shows a woman in a white dress in a very large building. She seems to be lost. She is standing in front of a staircase she has to climb—an overwhelming task. When I got married in the late 1960s, my father-in-law, King Olav, didn’t think it necessary for me to have my own office. So I had to move from one room to the other. It took 22 years until I had my own office here at the Royal Palace—the one where we are sitting now. There are 22 steps in the staircase in Liv’s painting—one for each year I spent without an office.
Many works made by women appeal to me, maybe because they deal with the female experience. I saw Judith Chicago’s work, “The Dinner Party”—a table set for historic women—in the Brooklyn Museum. Later, in Oslo, she asked me if I was a feminist. And to my own surprise, I found myself saying, Yes!