Reidar Fuglestad Sørlandets Kunstmuseum Kunstsilo The European Conference at Kilden, Kristiansand, May 5 th 2022
Reidar Fuglestad at The European Conference.

Read managing director Reidar’s speech from the European Conference

Art Matters | New perspectives 11.05.2022

On 5 May 2022, Kristiansand hosted the third European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights.

Here you can read our Managing Director Reidar Fuglestad’s speech held on 5 May at Kilden Performance Arts Centre.


Dear honourable guest and friends,

Thank you for being here with us in Kristiansand and thank you for your contribution to this important conference.

My name is Reidar Fuglestad, and I am the managing director of what will be Kristiansands new and groundbreaking museum Kunstsilo, which you can see being built over there. 

At the time, our museum bears the name of Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, The Southern Norway Art Museum, and I am very proud and grateful to be one of the partners of this conference.

We are now creating a brand-new museum of an old grain silo. Kunstsilo will be the home for The Tangen Collection – the world’s biggest collection of Nordic modernist art.

The Tangen Collection is a gift from Nicolai Tangen back to his hometown, and the reason for the Kunstsilo project.

In war, art is significant

Europe suddenly changed recently.

It shook our mindset. Sadly reminding us we can’t take democracy, freedom of speech or peace for granted. 

But we also witness great unity.

Our human and social values rises, amplifies and clarifies in times of such monumental and core shaking situations.

In war, we see countless examples worldwide that art is significant.

Bombing of museums brings important reminders of immense loss of collected artefacts – human imprints – forever.

Attacks on history, heritage, and identity serve as both symbolic – but also devastating actions, to further hurt or destroy a nation.

Art connects people emotionally

Museums are often thought of as places that exhibit pieces of art.

Collecting and preserving the story of nations. 

Although that is correct, this leaves out an important dimension. 

At the heart of every museum there also exists a passion to present, interpret and shed light on stories in new ways– stories we recognize as our own, or can picture ourselves participating in, and stories that might change our view of the world.

Important breakthroughs for freedom of expression have often taken place through art and the general cultural debate. 

Art connects people emotionally. 

And when you poke at emotions, you will get reactions .

Stewards of truth

Recently I discovered an interesting study at our own university. 

The study showed that, when it comes to challenging the narratives of war, artists actually challenge established truths in conflicts to a greater extent than journalists!

The study was published by the University of Agder in collaboration with several universities across Europe.

While historians crave answers, artists ask questions!

And world-wide, the population generally has great confidence in museums as stewards of truth. 

Our status as collecting institutions comes with a responsibility for trustworthy and accountable commenters of both the past and the present. 

Museums are safe spaces for unsafe ideas

Museums facilitates debate and discussion; we are spaces where many voices should be invited and heard. 

“Museums are safe spaces for unsafe ideas” has been a common phrase for decades, thus an arena of democratization and freedom of speech. 

Our museum has until now been a small, most of the time polite, and quiet museum. 

Kunstsilo will not be so modest. On the contrary. 

We will be heard and seen – we will be bold, innovative and an arena of constant dissent. 

Museums must have the courage and strength to enter uncomfortable places of debate and strong opinions. Discomfort, provocation, objections, and critique should be seen as a token of success.

To succeed maintaining these values, Kunstsilo is obliged to constantly be aware of attempts to abate this.

We’ll arrange ourselves as a platform and caretaker for freedom of speech. Shaping an arena of democratization for the coming generations. 

Being a partner of the European Conference is one of several instruments in that matter.

This is how we can sustain the core values Europe originally raised its unity for: democracy, freedom of speech and liberty.

Thank you.


Facts about The European Conference

  • Kristiansand has entered into an agreement with the Council of Europe to use the occasion of the Europe Day to convene, every year, a European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights.


  • The conference is organized jointly with the Council of Europe, the University of Agder, Kilden Performing Arts Centre, Sørlandets Kunstmuseum (SKMU), Arkivet Peace and Human Rights Centre, Cultiva Foundation, and Agder County Council.


  • The European Conference 5 May 2022 will focus on the situation in Ukraine and will also address questions that are important for the institutions and nations of Europe, in order to support prosperity and peace. 

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