Oslo Opera House by Snøhetta

How to gauge the value a country places on culture? The amount of public funding to the arts is one measure. Another is the public’s engagement in institutional art – that is, bums on seats. Attempting to gain United Nations recognition is another: the usual suspect in Europe recently applied to have ‘la cuisine française’ placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. In Norway, however, at the opening of the Oslo Opera House’s first season in August, Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen said that “without culture we have nothing worth defending”, thereby elevating culture to an issue of national security.