History: From Nationalmuseet to Nasjonalmuseet
Norway's first public art museum, Nationalmuseet, was established by the Norwegian parliament in 1837, and almost ninety years passed until a museum building was completed. It was later renamed to the National Gallery.
Already ten years after completion, in 1937, the building was found to be too small. Architectural competitions for extensions were held in 1972 and 1995, to no avail.
The story was quite a different one in the other Nordic countries, where, at the end of the 1990s, museums were built and upgraded. The Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki opened, as did the Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet in Stockholm. Nationalmuseet and the National Gallery in Copenhagen were both expanded, and the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art was opened.
In Oslo, the need for improvements became increasingly clear, not only for the National Gallery, but also for the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Design and Decorative Arts and the Museum of Architecture. As a consequence, the four institutions were merged in 2003 in order to establish an institution of significance, to be located in an “all-arts” museum.