KODE presides over more than 43,000 art objects, ranging from paintings and drawings, sculptures, installations and videos, to objects, furniture, artisanal handcraft and design.
Considerable collections have been bestowed upon the museum since the beginning in 1897. Today, long-term depositions of collections from private citizens as well as foundations ensure that our visitors can always experience something new at the museum. The artworks are put on display in the museum’s fixed expositions, or placed in one of the museum’s temporary expositions. The museum also lends out select artworks to expositions at other museums in and outside the country. The whole collection is never displayed simultaneously, so many items are kept in the museum’s storage. The different collections have been donated to the precursors to KODE, the old institutions Permanenten (the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art) and Bergen Art Museum.
The history of the collections
The history of KODE’s collections is split between the two old institutions Permanenten (the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art) and Bergen Art Museum. The latter’s collection story can be traced back to 1825, when Bergen Museum was founded. The statesman W.F.K. Christie (1778–1849) and the well-known painter J.C. Dahl (1788–1857) were the prime movers behind the development of a collection of paintings at the museum. The collection was transferred to the Bergen Visual Arts Museum when the latter was established as a county institution in 1878. Two major donations provided the city with additional valuable art collections: in 1917, the Rasmus Meyer Collections were bestowed upon Bergen in a letter, and the Stenersen Collection was donated to the county in 1971. In 1999, the common administration of the city’s art collections was underlined by the establishment of the Bergen Art Museum, and when Lysverket opened its extensive permanent exhibition in 2003, the term Bergen Visual Arts Gallery – formerly denoting the oldest part of the exhibition – was formally dropped. At the same time, Stenersen stopped being used as the permanent location for the Stenersen Collection and the Bergen Visual Arts Gallery, and instead started hosting the museum’s changing exhibitions. However, the county of Bergen still retains ownership of the museum’s art collections.
The West Norway Museum of Decorative Art was first established as an association in 1887, and its main mission was the creation of a museum for the decorative arts in Bergen. Even though it would take ten years before the museum building was erected, the association was flooded with gifts. The first and most crucial gift came from the well-heeled business man Christian Sundt, who donated almost 400 objects of supreme quality as early as 1889. The museum has been bestowed a large amount of gifts and donations throughout the years, and together with purchased items this part of the museum now numbers 35,000 items. Some of the largest and most significant donations include the Chinese Collection (1907-1935), the Singer Collection (1963) and the Silver Treasure (2007).