Art - Salamandernatten

Artist: Kjell Erik Killi Olsen.

After its ‘birth’ in Brazil, a wandering existence and an uncertain future, the huge group of sculptures entitled ‘Salamandernatten’ and created by Kjell Erik Killi Olsen, arrived at its final destination in Trondheim, in a basement location at Sparebank 1, a bank situated in Søndre gate. ‘Salamandernatten’ was created for the São Paulo Art Biennial in Brazil, 1989. A separate building was erected for the 72 sculptures, all of which are more than 3 m high. In the middle of the group we find a woman in the act of breastfeeding a salamander. At the Biennial, light for the room measuring 14 x 6 x 5 m was provided through a narrow opening in the roof, an effect which provided a unique atmosphere for the 600,000 people who saw the work of art displayed there. The point of departure when Killi Olsen created this group of sculptures was his commitment to the rainforest, and indeed, the work of art led to increased attention towards the brutal deforestation of tropical areas.

‘Salamandernatten’ was in storage for 16 years before it was transported to Norway and displayed at an exhibition at the Henie Onstad Art Centre at Høvikodden outside Oslo. Director Per Hovdenakk declared ‘Salamandernatten’ to be the key work of Norwegian art in the 1980s. The artist remained the owner of the sculptures, and a final location for the work was not decided upon until 2007, when ‘Salamandernatten’ was exhibited in the artist’s birthplace, Trondheim. After the exhibition, Killi Olsen generously offered the group of sculptures to the Municipality of Trondheim.

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Text descriptions of art made before the year 2000 are taken from the book 'Skulpturguiden for Trondheim' by Anne Grønli and Grethe Britt Fredriksen. Text descriptions of art made after the year 2000 are written by Per Christiansen.