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Thursday, March 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Wagner-inspired paintings donated to Nordic museum

Seattle Times art critic

The Nordic Heritage Museum — poised to begin fundraising for a new building in downtown Ballard — has announced a major gift to the collection.

Board President Allan Osberg and his wife, Inger, will purchase 10 large paintings by Karl Momen for the museum. The paintings, a series inspired by Wagner's operas, are on display at the museum in the traveling exhibition "Nexus."

Director Marianne Forssblad said the Iranian-born artist's long affiliation with Sweden is a prime motivation for the gift. Momen, formerly an architect, has lived in Sweden most of his adult life and designed several major Swedish hospitals. "You can almost sense his architectural background with his paintings," Forssblad said.

And there is another connection. Like Seattle Opera, the Stockholm Opera has a special interest in Wagner's work. It just opened a production of "Das Rheingold," Forssblad said, and will soon continue with the full Ring series, which is based in Nordic myths and sagas. Momen's paintings are each titled for a different Wagner opera.

Forssblad would not divulge the monetary value of the Osbergs' gift, but said Momen's paintings range from $40,000-$50,000 a canvas and up. The exhibition has been touring the U.S. and will travel next to Europe, Forssblad said, so the works will not return to Seattle for some time. "That's very good because we are in the midst of fundraising for a new site ... These pieces will be in the new museum."

The Nordic Heritage Museum has already purchased the Fenpro building and is negotiating for adjacent land on the south side of Market Street between 28th and 26th avenues. Once the purchase is complete, the museum will move ahead with a capital campaign of at least $25 million. The community has already contributed $5 million for the land purchase. Additional money for an endowment will also be included in the fund drive.

Sheila Farr: sfarr@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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