The Foundation has a particular interest in the visual arts, reflecting the interest and expertise of its founder, Nicolai Tangen. It also seeks to develop close relationships with a limited number of partner institutions, primarily in the UK and Norway, with which projects are jointly envisaged and realised.


SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum

The SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum is a regional art institution, located in Kristiansand, Norway, which has collected high quality arts and crafts objects from its local area since its formation in 1995. SKMU has developed a wide range of educational activities including the establishment of a successful museum for children, The Children’s Art Museum, within its premises. 

The Foundation has made a number of grants to SKMU to be used for the purchase of Norwegian glass, ceramics and similar art works, dating from 1930 onwards, for public display.  It has also supported an initiative by SKMU to cover the cost of transport to bring school children to the museum.

AKO Kunststiftelse

The Foundation is undertaking a major programme of support for AKO Kunststiftelse, a Norwegian non-profit foundation whose objective is to advance the public’s access to Nordic visual arts from 1900 onwards.  To achieve this objective AKO Kunststiftelse is building a collection of such art for public exhibition and it is intended that SKMU will have the right to use this collection free of charge and on a perpetual basis. 

It is planned that the public exhibition of the collection will be in a new museum, the Kunstsilo Museum, in Kristiansand. The establishment of this new museum is being undertaken by SKMU in cooperation with the Kristiansand municipal authorities, the Norwegian government and other Norwegian institutions; it is expected to open in 2023.

To date the main focus of AKO Kunststiftelse has been on building the collection while SKMU has undertaken the identification of the building to house and exhibit the collection, the recruitment of the director of this new museum, and the building out of the Museum’s organisation.  The ultimate combined vision is to create a public art collection of international importance housed in an art museum of outstanding architectural quality.

The Foundation is also supporting research into certain aspects of the collection by a doctoral candidate at the University of Agder, Norway.

The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Courtauld Institute of Art is an international centre for the study of the history and conservation of art and is also home to one of the finest small art museums in the world.

Its Institute of Art, a college of the University of London, is the pre-eminent centre for the study of the history of art in Europe.  The Foundation has endowed an academic post for the study of European art of the 20th century, in particular, German Expressionism.  The gift was made by the Foundation in honour of Dr Shulamith Behr, Honorary Research Fellow at the Courtauld, who taught Nicolai Tangen during his MA studies there.  Dr. Robin Schuldenfrei, a distinguished art history scholar specialising in the history and theory of European and American modern architecture and design, is the first appointee to this endowed post.  She has made several important contributions to teaching and research at the Courtauld including launching a new MA degree, ‘Experiencing Modernism: Utopia, Politics, and Times of Turmoil’.  The course is consistently popular and oversubscribed.

Courtauld Connects is a major capital project to redevelop the Courtauld’s physical premises in Somerset House, London.  The objectives of Courtauld Connects are to increase access to the Courtauld and improve users’ experiences, to create the best teaching, conservation and research environment, and to preserve and reveal the Courtauld’s heritage building and collections.  The Foundation has provided a major grant towards this project.

In recent years, the Foundation has presented an annual AKO Curatorial Prize, open to graduates of the Courtauld’s MA programme.  The AKO Curatorial Prize is the only such prize available to MA graduates in the UK.


The Foundation was the principal supporter of the exhibition Olafur Eliasson: In real life which was on display at Tate Modern during the second half of 2019.  The Foundation’s connections with Eliasson’s work also include support for the charity Little Sun (see above).

During its 6-month run, Olafur Eliasson: In real life welcomed 546,431 visitors – nearly 200,000 more than had been anticipated.  It was the second most attended exhibition in Tate’s history, and just the third to exceed the 500,000 visitors mark.  Tate Collective (a bespoke membership programme for 16- to 25-year olds) accounted for 58,855 visits over the course of the exhibition run, the most popular show with Tate Collective members to date.  Throughout the exhibition’s run, the exhibition webpage received nearly 1.5 million page views.

During 2020 the Foundation’s relationship with Tate deepened in several ways.  Following on from the sustainability theme of the Olafur Eliasson: In real life exhibition, Tate had planned, with the Foundation’s support, a programme of events to be titled Power to Change: this would focus on the responsibility and role of artists, art and museums in the climate emergency.  Regrettably, this had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having supported the staging by Turner Contemporary of the Turner Prize in 2019 (see below), the Foundation agreed to support the 2020 Turner Prize, to have been held at Tate Britain.  In the event the 2020 Turner Prize did not take place, thus the Foundation’s support will be rolled forward towards the 2021 Turner Prize at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry.

Tate Modern and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York have jointly staged an exhibition, “Surrealism Beyond Borders”.   The Foundation will be the primary supporter of the exhibition while it is on display in London.

Turner Contemporary

The world’s best-known and most prestigious contemporary art prize, the annual Turner Prize alternates between Tate Britain and a regional museum or gallery.  In 2019 Turner Contemporary, located in Margate, on the Kent coast, was selected to host the Turner Prize.  The Foundation’s support enabled Turner Contemporary to host the event, to deliver an education programme, and to use the high profile created by the Prize to commission new works.

University of the Arts

The University of the Arts London (UAL) is Europe’s largest specialist arts and design university.  It offers courses in arts, design, fashion and communication and is attended by over 19,000 students from more than 130 countries. The Foundation has made the following grants to UAL:

  • A grant to facilitate the launch of UAL’s Creative Computing Institute. This is a UAL-wide centre of expertise in digital and computing matters which will both have an input into art and design courses across UAL, all of which require ever-increasing use of digital and computing elements, and also generate new areas of study and practical outputs with real world applications.
  • A grant to support the launch of a second new UAL institute, the Social Design Institute. This institute will apply design solutions to some of the world’s biggest social and environmental challenges to produce solutions that are actionable and deliverable.
  • Continuing support for student bursaries. The Foundation’s bursary support is now targeted at those students who have come to UAL under its ‘Insights’ programme, through which UAL seeks to recruit talented students from disadvantaged and otherwise under-represented backgrounds.  This group of students will therefore include many who would expect to experience financial hardship in the absence of bursary support.

British Museum

The Foundation has supported the following exhibitions at the British Museum during the last 2 years:

  • Edvard Munch: love and angst which was on display at the Museum in 2019. The exhibition, a collaboration with the Munch Museum of Oslo, Norway, included 83 works, of which nearly 50 were prints borrowed from the Munch Museum, one of the most extensive loans of prints ever made by that Museum.  Visitor numbers exceeded 100,000, requiring late-night opening on the final weekend to accommodate demand; 18% of those attending were first-time visitors to the Museum, in excess of the usual figure for a paid exhibition. 
  • Library of Exile, an installation by Edmund de Waal during 2020 and early 2021, in which he reflects on the idea of language as migration. A temporary white pavilion containing four vitrines of porcelain vessels, one of which has been bought by the AKO Kunststiftelse, alongside more than 2,000 books by writers from Ovid to the present day, de Waal has described it as ‘the most significant sculpture of my life’.  The library of books, all written by émigrés, has been donated to the public library in Mosul, Iraq.
  • The Arctic: culture and climate, which was open (subject to lockdown restrictions) during the second half of 2020. This exhibition sought to further public understanding of the mutual relationships that unite people, their environment and the planet, at a time when the indigenous peoples of the Arctic are facing the very real possibility that the sea ice, and their world, will change dramatically, if not disappear.

The Foundation has also agreed to support other initiatives at the British Museum, including a planned 5-year programme of support for the Museum’s collection of Nordic prints and drawings, to include acquisitions and a dedicated curatorship.

Camden Arts Centre

The Camden Arts Centre is a medium-sized gallery in north London that has an established reputation for showing work by both nationally and internationally significant contemporary artists.  Founded by a group of artists in 1965, the changing programme includes temporary exhibitions, artists’ residencies, and educational and family courses and other activities.  The Foundation has made an unrestricted grant over 3 years.

ARoS Aarhus Art Museum

ARoS, located in Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, is the oldest public art museum in Denmark outside Copenhagen, and is one of the largest art museums in Northern Europe.  The Foundation has agreed to support two exhibitions: a joint retrospective of the Danish artists Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby, which opened in late 2020; and a forthcoming exhibition of contemporary African art, currently scheduled to open in late 2021.

Wigmore Hall

The second grant made by the Foundation, shortly after its establishment in 2013, was to the Wigmore Hall.  The relationship was renewed in 2020, when the Foundation agreed to underpin the series of concerts planned for the spring season in 2021.  In the event the public was not able to attend these concerts in person, and a revised programme of streamed concerts had to be put in place.  During the 2020/21 season overall, the Wigmore Hall presented 350 concerts and other events, of which 250 were broadcast to a global audience.

AKO Caine Prize

The Caine Prize for African Writing was launched in 2000 by Africa 95, a UK charity, with the aim of encouraging and highlighting the rich diversity of African writing.  Now renamed the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, this is the premier African literature prize and is awarded each year to an African writer of a short story published in English.  In addition to administering the prize, Africa 95 works to connect readers with African writers through a series of public events, and helps emerging writers in Africa to enter the world of mainstream publishing through the annual Caine Prize writers’ workshop which takes place in a different African country each year.  The Foundation has agreed to be the sole sponsor of the AKO Caine Prize for the three years 2020 – 2022.

AKO Foundation