top of page

What can an "old museum" teach the business world, owners, boards and managers?

I got the idea for this little "twist" on an article about a "must see" museum after a spontaneous visit to Kistefos, far out in the "hutti heita", or more precisely in Jevnaker.

The Twist gallery and bridge - (c) Ingar Næss

I had noticed that a new gallery had been established, in a building that had been given the exciting name, The Twist! Not only that, but this building had achieved amazing international attention and recognition. The price tag was a few hundred million, but what does that mean, if you have faith in the future, and good financing!

Yes, what does this have to do with learning for Norwegian business owners, maybe nothing, some will think, but for others maybe Kistefos' change strategy and action power can actually mean a new way of thinking!

If nothing else, perhaps they add the next strategy meeting, company trip or board meeting to "Hutti heita" and feed board members, management groups and or the employees with a bit of culture and a different experience. That in itself can actually be an exciting variant of innovative thinking, a little outside the box.

The "box" is Entrance (c) Ingar Næss

Speaking of out-of-the-box, the only thing out-of-the-box here is that they've actually done everything right, as far as I can tell.

- That is why I hope you read the whole article and see if there is some learning and or lots of awareness here. Doing things whole and whole, not piecemeal and divided is what makes their new strategy a winner. In addition, they have done everything at the right time, and use all relevant channels to achieve the final goal. This story, I believe, proves that everything is possible and successful, even far into the "hutti heita".

First let's take a little history.

Kistefos as a museum and gallery was already established in 1996 by businessman and art collector Christen Sveaas. The fact that he chose Kistefos was based on the fact that his family had established a wood pulp business here as far back as 1889. The first thing Sveaas established was a center for contemporary art and sculptures.

It is not easy to get thousands of visits far into the "huti heita", even though there was constant investment in making the museum well-known and attractive within its niche. That already in 2010 they began the discussion about implementing important changes and perhaps making larger investments, so that they could put Kistefos properly on the map.

A committed board has shown that they had the ability to think new things, but like many other things, things can take time, when the goal is to do things "right the first time"! Some of the challenges were that the old gallery inside the park was too high under the roof, there was a lot of humidity and it would cost a disproportionate amount to restore. Nor would it ensure the desired effect, so that the investments could be defended.

Newly used Gallery Photo: Vegard Kleven

So around 2016, the discussion about establishing a new gallery got really underway and new decisions meant that the ideas for a new exciting gallery were initiated. This decision was to start a completely new era, for the museum which, after all, was located far out in the countryside, and now was to become something completely new and very exciting.

The board must be praised for its courage and implementation power. In relation to everything I have read and from articles and videos, this decision needed courage and not least faith in the future. Yes, I would almost say, religious faith at the highest level. The strategy they established for success contained everything, except a pandemic! The way it was handled is a small masterpiece of implementation power, with a living and dynamic communication strategy at the bottom.

As said so done.

Today, Kistefos is one of Europe's most important sculpture parks for contemporary art and also includes an industrial museum, two art galleries and an impressive sculpture park in scenic surroundings. The intention is to preserve the buildings and industrial heritage, while celebrating the best of Norwegian and international contemporary art.

The need for a new and more modern museum building, since the old exhibition space in Nybruket Galleri, was too small and did not meet the requirements for a modern museum building.

At the same time, the sculpture park had expanded and developed in an inefficient U-shape, down either side of the river bank of the Randselva. These extensions therefore necessitated a second bridge, in order to have a better flow in the public's journey and experience.

I think to myself that they should just show how important this thought would turn out to be.

When the Danish group BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group, was invited to draw a proposal for the new museum building, they came up with the idea of linking these two needs together in a new museum building and a new bridge. From Kistefos' side, it then became a requirement that the building should have great sculptural qualities and the result was The Twist.

That the choice fell on the Danish star architects in BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group was not accidental, because as far as I know, one of the board members was familiar with them and showed that their recognition was widely recognized.

The result was, as I said, The Twist. This has become a fantastic gallery, in a fantastic bridge, which you don't notice you're walking on and all this is an experience sculpture in itself.

The building is 1,000 square meters in size and formally floats over the Randselva, in a 60 meter long span.

I just have to admit that these architects are fantastically talented. Just put yourself into the idea of designing a bridge so that the gallery building itself becomes a work of art, - yes I think it's fantastic. It picks up speed and turns over the river with a twist, which makes this masterpiece a unique sculptural experience. Whoah!

The fact that The Twist has been referred to as a "Must See cultural destination" by, among others, the New York Times, Bloomberg and The Telegraph, shows that they have not only hit, - right in the middle of the very innermost.

Since BIG is established both in Copenhagen, New York and London with a group of architects, designers, urban planners, landscapers, interior and product designers, researchers and inventors, they know what they are doing and then there are also press releases that hit the mark

Construction started in December 2017 and The Twist opened on 18 September 2019. Since the project had cost around NOK 200 million, it also became an item with both Norwegian and international journalists. Remember the gallery is located deep in "Hutti Heita" or as Sveaas himself is said to have said "It's in the middle of fucking nowhere!" or at Jevnaker as the locals like to call it!

In my research I got a good description of plans and implementation. This is also where my thoughts for business leaders accelerate inside my head.

One of the most important elements to make this a success is to get the employees involved. They must understand why these changes are happening, what the goals are and not least how important it is that they, employees, become part of the whole process and not least the communication strategy.

This is music to my ears, if you know what I mean!

The fact that five months later there is a pandemic and the world shuts down must have done something to the night's sleep and the nerves of those responsible. However, with a well-planned communication strategy, it was easy to make a pandemic-relevant adaptation. Most of the work had already been done in connection with the opening. A creative and possibility-oriented plan was created. With the help of the strategy around The Twist, Kistefos became a place to visit during the pandemic, since they could now direct the visitors through the gallery and museum within all the imposed orders about distance and infection protection. Fantastically smart and again incredibly well communicated. At least the visitor numbers prove it.

A great deal of effort was put into the press work ahead of the launch of The Twist. They managed to secure some very important mentions in leading international magazines such as Bloomberg and The Telegraph. This, based on the unique "The Twist", stood for and that this was a building and a sculpture worth experiencing.

They planned and organized a large press tour for the opening of The Twist and as many as 60 national and international journalists and photographers turned up.

The importance of Kistefos' new website was to form the basis for the "rebranding". The web pages were established ahead of the opening, with a new logo, new fonts in a completely newly designed website. This was an essential basis, so that they could start the work of appearing as a modern museum.

I believe that many business leaders and businesses have a lot to learn. Especially when I think about the importance of new good photos, which help to tell what a fantastic experience the visitors will have when they come here. There is something in the old saying that «a picture is worth a thousand words».

All texts were written so that they were easy to read, more inviting and inspiring. Actually implementing a comprehensive change strategy down to every detail shows that they have made many important and correct choices. It is always, in the details, that we find the small important differences, which can make the big difference.

Yes actually come across as brilliant, I think.

Social media is also important. Here the focus was again on good, high-quality images and content that should inspire visits and the feeling that this is a "must-see" destination. This should be something you want to add to your "bucket list".

Selected with a popular and light tone in the language, rather than the more "professional" style that often characterizes art institutions, seems to be absolutely decisive.

In order to meet the followers on Instagram, who are younger and more urban than on Facebook, English was chosen as the language, while it was chosen to communicate in Norwegian on Facebook.

On my own account, I think again, imagine if all companies could be equally proven in their strategy, that would make Norway more professional. This builds recognition to a very positive degree and it is something that lasts - for a long time.

The location was important to turn the impression that they were located "in hutti heita" to an advantage. It was actually Christen Sveaas himself who said. "It's in the middle of fucking nowhere!"!

That a drone photo of The Twist taken from a little distance actually caused two guys from Singapore to get on the plane on an errand to see what on earth this place was!

I believe that they succeeded very well with this move and the result can only be applauded.

I think this is so good, that posting a workshop in "Hutti heita" should in itself be a fantastic inspiration, in your next "kick off" for your company or the company's new strategy, action plan or simply as motivation.

This is Christian Sveaas's Iris. (c) Ingar Næss

Popular photo object: Marc Quinn's sculpture "All of nature flows through us" is a copy of Christen Sveaas' iris.

Good luck to you as a leader and your new strategy!

NB! This is not a paid article, it is only based on the inspiration of my experience and inspiration on what they have managed to establish and in what way it was carried out. Getting the eyes of the world to "hutti heita" is an art in itself, even if they have a great building.


Kistefos is located in Jevnaker, a municipality about an hour's drive north of Oslo, Norway. Address: Samsmoveien 41, in Jevnaker.

The Kistefos-Museet foundation was founded in 1996 and was made possible by gifts from Christen Sveaas and Jevnaker municipality. Christen Sveaas is the granddaughter of Anders Sveaas, the founder of A/S Kistefos Træsliberi.

A bit of history.

As said, Consul Anders Sveaas (1840-1917) founded A/S Kistefos Træsliberi in 1889, they produced wood pulp in the factories at Kistefos until 1955. The company bought large forest areas in the early 20th century to ensure access to timber. 1983 /84

The business was sold by the family in 1993. Christen Sveaas, grandson of Anders Sveaas, bought back 85% of the business. Sveaas developed an industrial history museum on the factory site.

In 1999 the Sculpture Park opened, mainly with contemporary sculptures by Norwegian artists. So in 2005, the first work in a series of commissioned and site-specific artworks was unveiled. Then the thing that changed everything happened, The Twist was opened. Perhaps one of the most beautiful galleries in the world. Not only is it a work of art in itself, but once you get in you won't want to go out again, if you're even a little bit interested in architecture as well.

The museum: Kistefos comprises a sculpture park for modern art, two galleries and a museum.



bottom of page