Unlocking Oslo’s history
- The Vigeland Sculpture Park
By: Juliane P. Husvik
Photo: Herman Dreyer / Live
«Isn’t this place just enchanting! It lures you in, right?» Richard Klingspor (50) gesticulates eagerly while standing just inside of the huge cast iron gate leading into the Vigeland Park. An 80-acre green oasis in the middle of Oslo, containing 214 sculptures with more than 758 figures in total – all modelled in full size by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943).
Early autumn sunbeams hit the tall elm trees around the main entrance as Klingspor is about to begin his custom-designed tour, «Vigeland Park Deluxe». Today’s clients, a couple in their fifties on their first ever Oslo vacation, eagerly awaits the three-hour walk through the unique sculpture park. One of the absolute «must-sees» upon visiting Norway’s capitol, according to the certified Oslo guide himself.
Art and history hand in hand
Raised in Sweden by a creative family involved in television, film and theatre, Richard found himself interested in both classical music, art and history from an early age.
- There is something about artists that has always fascinated me tremendously. Whether it be painters, musicians, writers or sculptors. Despite the worst obstacles one can imagine they still somehow manage to stay true to themselves and their work. They never give in, and by that become immortal through the legacy left behind.
Klingspor heads over to a bronze statue of Gustav Vigeland himself. Indeed, a natural place to launch the tour, yet a statue overlooked by many as they hurry up to the park’s most breath-taking sculpture – the 56 feet tall Monolith.
Dressed in a cobalt suit jacket adorned by his gold plated Oslo Guide-pin, Richard is quite the character himself in the midst of more anonymously dressed tourists. The participants listen with great interest as engrossing trivia about both Vigeland and his park is being revealed, while others lean in on the guided tour – hoping to learn a thing or two themselves.
Klingspor handles the crowd politely, sharing a few fun facts about Vigeland’s most famous statue, «Sinnataggen» («The Angry Boy»), while at the same time signalling that this specific tour is for his clients exclusively.
- One of the most liberating things about being a tourist guide is the fascinating synergy that emerges in the interaction with the people I meet. Both parties are aware of our limited time together, and it is my job to fulfill and surpass their expectations. We often establish a close and personal relationship there and then, even though we’ll probably never cross paths again.
A lifelong dream
He vigorously pulls out a nicely folded piece of paper from his left pocket, revealing a quote about Gustav Vigeland by the sculptor’s long time friend and famous novelist Nini Roll Anker. The party of two pauses while Klingspor recites her elaborate description. Using his captivating narrative voice Klingspor paints a portrait of the vulnerable man behind the lavish sculpture park. Additionally, drawing parallels to a harsh life – much like the reality described in the book «Sult» («Hunger») by Knut Hamsun.
Continuing through a beautiful rose garden on their way to Vigeland’s «Fountain» – the earliest sculpture unit in the park – the couple eagerly converse with their guide. Despite having known one another for barely an hour, the group already interacts like old acquaintances.
- I do not think it’s possible to be a good guide solely based on having an interest for history. This profession is just as much about being a gregarious person. I have worked with people my whole life, starting out as an opera group guide throughout the world at the age of 24, and later through jobs in the Swedish Navy and Kirkens SOS (The Norwegian equivalent to Great Britain’s Samaritans).
For the love of traveling
Klingspor’s private interest in the classical music genre goes even further back than being an opera group guide in his early twenties. Ever since watching Ingmar Bergman’s «Trollflöjten» («The Magic Flute») as a six-year-old boy, he knew where his heart belonged. In his late teens he started out as a freelance opera singer alongside studying to be a political scientist. In 2011 an opportunity arose and Klingspor had the chance to make a lifelong dream come true. He founded Stellis Polaris Management, delivering consulting and advisory work for professional classically trained singers in the Nordic countries.
Klingspor is also a huge devotee to travelling, describing it as more of a lifestyle than a hobby. Interestingly enough his favourite place to visit is not classical staples like Paris, Rome or Vienna, but Lebanon’s both war-torn and culturally pulsating capitol Beirut.
- Ever since my childhood Beirut was almost like a mythical place to me. When I finally had the chance to visit this spectacular city for the first time back in 2009 I was in awe. I just fell head over heels in love with the complexity of the city, its people, their way of living and celebrating life. Not to mention the heavenly delicious food one can buy in the city’s many marketplaces. Their meze is most definitely a must! I think I have been there five times already, and I can’t wait to go back, Klingspor says longingly.
Another of his top recommended travel destinations is Barcelona. After visiting for the first time back in 1990, the skilled guide has returned to «The City of Counts» more than 40 times.
- Barcelona has everything – plain and simple. Architecture, history, a modern metropolis, a huge beach, great people, food and cava. Everything! It is truly the city of my dreams.
More than just a job
Back in Oslo, the private tour is coming to an end, finishing up in the Vigeland Museum amongst the original collection of plaster and clay sculptures. Advanced depictions of human anatomy which would later be carved in granite and cast in bronze.
Bidding his travel party farewell, Klingspor humbly accepts praise from the satisfied visitors – already looking forward to next day’s excursion. This time, his other custom made tour for the Live service, «The Bernadotte Era – Kristiania 1814-1905», about the time Norway and Sweden shared the same five kings. An exciting period of history that even most Norwegians know little about.
- It’s a great honour to be acknowledged for your passion and expertise. Working with Live has given me an even greater opportunity to create exciting and unique tours in this young, yet history filled capital, Klingspor concludes.
Richard Klingspor is amongst a small group of handpicked professional tourist guides, certified by the Oslo City Council, selected to represent Oslo in the Live service.
The Vigeland Park Deluxe Tour
Located in Oslo’s beautiful borough of Frogner, the Vigeland Sculpture Park is Norway’s most popular tourist attraction, consisting of more than 200 life sized sculptures, figures and statues.
Created by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, the impressive installation is regarded as the world’s largest sculpture park made by one single artist and draws between 1 and 2 million visitors each year.
This tour takes you on a meticulous exploration of both the park and Vigeland’s own life throughout three intriguing hours of art and history.
Learn about the park’s massive and breathtaking sculptures, like its 56 feet tall «Monolith» and the world famous «Sinnataggen» («The Angry Boy»), as well as fascinating personal trivia about the artist himself.
Our walk comes to an end as we cross the street to the Vigeland Museum. Here you will experience the original collection of plaster and clay sculptures, in addition to Vigeland’s private apartment and workspace – left exactly how it was upon his passing in 1943.
Book a tour in the Vigeland Park with Live.