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Halfdan Hafsten

1 collector, 8 artists

18. Jan 2020 - 31. Dec 2020

Halvdan Hafsten (1905–93) spent 50 years building a collection of works by eight artists from his own era: Reidar Aulie, Harald Dal, Arne Ekeland, Erling Enger, Kai Fjell, Ragnar Kraugerud, Thorbjørn Lie-Jørgensen and Alexander Schultz. In this exhibition we emphasise the personal relationship between the collector and the artists.

Hafsten was a visionary; he wanted his collecting activity to be for the enjoyment of future generations. He usually discussed at length with the artists when selecting pictures, and this close communication surely contributed to the high quality of the collection. He was also careful not to let the collection grow in lots of different directions, but restricted himself to his eight chosen artists. The aesthetics of form and colour were what appealed to him. He preferred paintings that went beyond a purely naturalistic representation of a subject.

Throughout his years as a collector, Hafsten nurtured his relationships with the eight artists, and several of them became his close friends. He visited them in their homes and studios, often in the company of other artists or professionals who acted as consultants. Hafsten truly enjoyed collecting and used a great deal of time on documenting and gathering information about the works that he owned. He asked all the artists to write about the pictures he bought from them, and he amassed a large archive of documentation about the artists’ exhibitionary activity, as well as documentation of all the exhibitions to which he eventually lent works.

Halvdan Hafsten did not seek the limelight. We know that throughout his working life, he was affiliated with the Askim-Røwde Company, perhaps best known for making rubber boots and tires. P. W. Røwde was a businessman with many interests, one of which was Hungarian culture. He was in fact Hungary’s consul general for Norway. Hafsten, through his work, also developed close ties to Hungary and eventually was awarded the kansler title by Hungary’s ambassador in Stockholm. He was honoured for his 25 years of service for the Royal Hungarian Consulate General in Norway (from 1927 to just after World War II), and was also awarded similar high honours by Hungary.

In 1984 Hafsten gave his art collection to Stavanger Faste Galleri. The gift functioned as leverage in the effort to build what is today Stavanger Art Museum, which opened in 1992. In connection with the public announcement of the gift, a journalist from Stavanger Aftenblad visited Hafsten at his home on Morells vei in Oslo. Hafsten was very hospitable and showed the journalist the home he had lived in since childhood. There were paintings by Reidar Auli in the bedroom and works by Arne Ekeland in the office.

A collector who devoted much of his life to collecting art chose to part with his pictures and to share them with the public at large. Halfdan Hafsten’s collection is not merely an important contribution to Norwegian art history, but an important chapter in the history of Norwegian collectors.