KORO ble etablert i 1977 og har produsert kunst for offentligheten siden. Her fra monteringen av Knut Steens relieff i Larvikitt utenfor den norske ambassaden i Washington i 1887. Foto: Jan A. Larsen.

A brief history about KORO

In 1976, the Storting passed legislation that resultet in the establishment of what is now known as KORO. The organization, whichs was originally known as Utsmykkingsfondet, literally «the Decorations Foundation», was established in response to historical trends that had been central to the development of official cultural policy in Norway.

  • Artistic decorations for key public buildings were seen as important to the efforts to promote a Norwegian national identity during the nation-building era in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, the governement established the first funding programmes for art government, county council and municipal buildings. Initially managed by the Ministry of Education and Church Affairs, the programme swere later run by Arts Council Norway. These programmes were part of a policy to disseminate culture to audiences in urban and rural locations throughout Norway, which was also reflected in the establishment of other bodies to promote professional cultural and artistic touring events, including exhibitions, film screenings, theatre and concerts.
  • From the 1930s onwards, artists’ organizations and other organizations involved in the visual arts and architecture, had campaigned for the introduction of a “percent-for-art” programme that would apply to the construction budgets for government buildings. Such programmes had been established in the United States in 1934 and in Sweden in 1937, for example. After the Artists’ Action 1974, the campaigning efforts of Norwegian artists culminated in the founding of a series of programmes for the visual arts. The establishment of the Decorations Foundation must be seen in this context.

Twenty years would pass, however, from the establishment of the Decorations Foundation in 1976 until a “percent-for art” programme for government buildings materialized. This came about through the establishment of the Art Programme for New Government Buildings in 1997. This programme is still running and entails the setting aside of 0 to 1.5 percent of a building’s construction budget for art, depending on the public significance of the building. With hindsight, the average percentage allocated for art has been approximately 0.75 percent. The Art Programme for Leased Properties and Older Government Buildings (the “LES Programme”) was established to ensure that art would also be available for such properties.

Around the turn of the millenium, the Decorations Foundation took over responsibility for Arts Council Norways programme for art in municipal and country-council buldings. This programme was subsequently divided into two programmes, known as the URO and KOM Programmes. While the KOM Programme primarily provided funding for art in local and regional buildings, the URO Programme was targeted at all other kinds of public entities and towards artists with more critical and experimental practices. For the first time, artists could apply for funding from the Decorations Foundation for their own projects. This contributed to a significant revitalization of the general understanding of public artworks and working methods, which was in accordance with international trends in the arts.

In 2006, the Decorations Foundation changed its name to Public Art Norway. The change of name should be understood as a reaction to a growing understanding amongst artistic communities of “decoration” as “mere decoration”, an activity that was completely subservient to the architecture of the building. Individuals and organizations in the arts, both in Norway and internationally, wanted public spaces to be seen as venues for works that allowed for active, reflective and critical artistic expression. According to such thinking, public art allowed for more direct and engaging encounters with the public. Many believed that public spaces, as alternative venues to museums and galleries, were to be preferred because they allowed for different expressive and progressive opportunities.