Picasso murals at heart of debate after Breivik bombing

Picasso murals at heart of debate after Breivik bombing
People pass Picasso's mural art work "The Fisherman" on the government quarter's 'Y building' in Oslo, Norway on August 6, 2013.

OSLO - Five Picasso murals that survived Anders Behring Breivik's bombing of an Oslo government block in 2011 are now at the heart of a divisive debate in Norway on the buildings' fate.

The murals drawn by the Spanish master in the late 1950s and 1960s - "The Beach", "The Seagull", "Satyr and Faun" and two versions of "The Fishermen" - risk being removed from the location for which they were conceived if the damaged buildings are torn down.

The government is currently mulling whether to demolish the structures or repair them.

Picasso's artwork adorns the concrete interiors and exteriors of two of the government buildings erected in central Oslo in the post-war period.

The murals, four of which were drawn specifically for the buildings and are done in a childlike style with simple geometric figures, were reproduced by Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar who sandblasted them into the concrete.

They mark Picasso's first foray into concrete murals.

The so-called "H block", a 17-storey tower that houses the prime minister's offices, is "an international treasure," said Norwegian Environment Minister Baard Vegar Solhjell, who is also tasked with cultural heritage issues.

"If it were demolished it would lead to an international debate," he told daily Dagsavisen.

Breivik kicked off his July 22, 2011 rampage that led to the deaths of 77 people by setting off a van bomb at the foot of "H block". The blast killed eight people, ravaged the structure, and badly damaged several neighbouring ministries.

At the end of June, a panel of experts decided that the most economical solution would be to demolish four buildings in the government block, including "H block" and another ministerial building, "Y block" - the two that feature the five Picasso works.

The art itself would not be demolished, but cut up and used elsewhere.

But given the fact the murals were designed with the original architecture in mind, art experts and media commentators are against such a move.

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