Picasso mural removed as Norway begins to tear down block

International

Art works Fishermen and Seagull by Pablo Picasso and Carl Nesjar are prepared to be removed from the Y-block in the government quarter in Oslo, Norway, Monday July 27, 2020, before the building is demolished. Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s first attempt at monumental concrete murals were designed for the Regjeringskvartalet buildings in central Oslo, and the designs were executed in concrete by Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar. (Lise Aserud / NTB scanpix via AP)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The removal of a pair of concrete murals by Pablo Picasso was completed Tuesday from a government building in the Norwegian capital of Oslo whose demolition was under way.

Opinions were divided over whether to spare what some considered an architectural masterpiece, while others said it was ugly.

The so-called Y-block will be replaced by a modern and safer construction after the government headquarters were targeted in June 2011 by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. He first set off a bomb at the nearby office of the prime minister, since demolished, where eight people died. He then went to Utoya island and killed 69 more in a shooting spree.

The total cost of the removal of the art pieces — to be preserved and installed elsewhere — and the demolition is estimated at 59 million kroner ($6.4 million), Norwegian news agency NTB said.

The artworks include the Fisherman, a Picasso drawing sandblasted on a 250-tonne section of the building’s front that was removed Monday, as well as a piece by Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjar. A second, smaller Picasso work, floor-to-ceiling drawing The Seagull, was located in the lobby and removed Tuesday.

“It is slow, and the whole move will take a long time,” Paal Weiby of the government agency overseeing the project told NTB as the Picasso mural was removed Monday. “Hopefully everything goes as planned.”

For some, the building dating to 1969 stands a painful reminder of the terror attack, when it suffered little structural damage. To others, it is a post-modernist masterpiece by Norwegian architect Erling Viksjoe. Some also say that by razing the building, officials are symbolically finishing Breivik’s job.

The office block shaped like a “Y” housed the education ministry until July 2011. The adjacent H-Block, a 1958 design by Viksjoe, was home to the prime minister’s offices until Breivik blew up a van parked at its base, loaded with explosives .

The demolition had been at a standstill since 2014 due to a series of postponements, chiefly because of the protests.

The Y-block could have been repaired but the government argued that it was still vulnerable to attacks because of its location.

Breivik, who was convicted of mass murder and terrorism in 2012 and given a 21-year prison sentence, claimed to be the commander of a secret Christian military order plotting an anti-Muslim revolution in Europe.

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