1 January 1938 – 31 December 1962


Our young-hearted society is getting old! Which stories should we share, which actions were forgotten, and who should we remember from UKS’ first century? On the occasion of the jubilee celebration 100 YEARS OF CONVIVIALITY we have invited various authors to dive into the archives and tell the stories that helped shape UKS. This edition pays homage to Ingse Kaarsberg—a UKS secretary for decades, who led the concept Kunst for Varer from the late 1930s. Until leaving her position in 1962, Ingse was a central part of UKS’ function as both a gallery and union. This text is written in reverence by a current longtime UKS employee, and Ingse-fan, Office Manager Kaja Breckan. 



Artists are lovely humans, you always find resonance with them. I could say it shorter: Artists are humans, in the richest sense of the word. 
– Ingse Kaarsberg to Aftenposten in 1962

One could easily presume that the people running an organization that includes the adjective “young” in its name, purpose, and artistic focus, would be described as such themselves. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the main reason for artists to give up their UKS membership is age (unless this is a longed-for excuse to not pay the members fee), and experience shows that uncertainty about an upper age limit (relax, there is no such thing) is the biggest concern for artists responding to UKS open calls.

The reason why “young” ended up in UKS’ name was, in fact, due to a certain artistic circle’s tendentious use of the word at the beginning of the 1900s. “Young” was the opposite of “old” art, and was used to describe a generational shift—or to point out that something was “modern,” “new,” and “in the wind.”In 1951, Ingse Kaarsberg herself explained to a journalist: “There is no age limit for becoming a member, the only requirement is that one paints young!2 Today, we still try to convince people that young is a feeling.

In 1938, Ingse Kaarsberg had just turned 45 when she came across a job advertisement for UKS’ center for exchanging goods, Kunst for Varer. Behind her, she had a career as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. The advert said: “Woman with experience in sales wanted.”3  Although Ingse did not have such experience, she was encouraged to apply, and she got the job. Three decades later, she said to a newspaper that she didn’t regret it for a second.4

Ingse’s presence in the UKS archive is diverse and discrete: her handwriting covers several shelf meters of the organization’s protocols and archive of correspondence, while her face is frequently found in archived newspaper clippings. The archive reveals Ingse advertising a UKS sale in aid of the UN in 1948;5 comforting a housewife in Valdres who had bought a worthless artwork by a wanderer pretending to be a renowned artist;6 and working to get UKS members to donate enough artworks to be able to buy a functioning wood stove to heat UKS’ 300-year-old home.7 Her trace always leaves the impression of an empathic, tireless, and professional personality, which is most likely what she had wanted herself. She was simply known as Ingse, and almost no one knew her full name, Ingrid Magdalene Kaarsberg—not even the colleague who named her own daughter Ingse.

Ingse was employed by UKS at around the same time as Kunst for Varer was established.The establishment of this center for exchanging goods was inspired by a project with the same name in Copenhagen and was, shortly after its inauguration, based in UKS’ long-awaited new premises at Rådhusgaten 19, which became UKS’ home for over 60 years.

Ingse soon became the public face of UKS. She was frequently depicted in Oslo’s newspapers, which at that time were numerous, and covered almost everything on the city’s small cultural scene. Journalists entertained readers with stories about Kunst for Varer’s many interesting trades, and in this regard Ingse was sometimes interviewed several times a month. The evening edition of the newspaper Aftenposten reported in 1941 that “a young artist, for his painting that was valued at 100 kroner, got the same amount worth of cigarettes. For the sake of his personal safety, we will not reveal his name.”9 Several newspapers also mentioned one special December evening when the Crown Prince Olav visited a UKS Christmas market to give eggs, potatoes, butter, and firewood from the royal estate Skaugum in exchange for a painting by Finn Faaborg. According to the newspaper Nationen, this was a great relief to the artist who was now prepared to face the upcoming holidays.10

It became widely known that UKS members had exceptionally good dental health compared to the rest of the population at this time, and that dental offices often housed exciting young, experimental art collections. Kunst for Varer remained a well-used service in Oslo for several decades. One of the reasons for its popularity was that anyone, in difficult times, could exchange a good teapot for a graphic work, or a nice coffee table for a sculpture. Kunst for Varer hit a record turnover at the beginning of the Second World War, when the occupation of Norway made goods less accessible; the population had more money to spend, and many also wanted to support the fight for culture.11 According to Ingse, UKS’ gallery also functioned as a free and open space in a difficult time. “It was as if people felt that they needed something beautiful to look at,” she told Aftenposten.12

Ingse retired from UKS in 1962, at the age of 70. At that time, she said to Aftenposten: “It will be strange to stop working here after so many years. But I’d love to travel a bit, maybe see Italy, and above all Greece. And then I’d also like to go to the theater, listen to music, and see exhibitions. I feel like an illiterate when it comes to art, because I’ve never been able to see any of the other art that this city has to offer. I can’t let go of art; once it has caught you, the colors, the rhythm, you simply have to continue living in it.”13 I hope Ingse had the chance to travel and see some really old art after a long life devoted to the forever young.



Øystein Sjåstad, “1921–1940: Unge kunstneres ‘våben og skjold utad’,” in Nina M. Schjønsby and Halvor Haugen (eds.), Kvisten på grenen, grenen på treet: Unge kunstneres samfund 1921–2021 (Oslo: Forlaget Press, forthcoming 2021), p. 32..
2  UKS archive, RA-PA1068 Za L0031, 1951.
3  “Dame med øvelse i salg søkes fra 10-13.30.” See https://www.uks.no/archive/arkiv-kunst-for-varer/.
4  “Ingse er 80,” Aftenposten (6 June 1972).
5  “Kunst + God gjerning = FN-hjelp,” Morgenbladet (6 April 1948).
6  UKS correspondence archive, RA-PA1068 Da L0001.
7  “Pen peis er Kunst for Varers jubileumsønske,” Arbeiderbladet (1948).
8  Sjåstad, p. 40.
9  “Kunst for Tobakk,” Aftenposten (6 May 1941).
10  Nationen (10 November 1939). Faaborg’s work is today part of the Royal Collection, and is exhibited at UKS’ anniversary exhibition what you can see is what you can imagine (12 November 2021 – 2 January 2022).
11  Frode Sandvik, “1940–1960: Isfront, oppgjør og opplysning,” in Schjønsby and Haugen, p. 40.
12  “Alle kunstneres Ingse,” Aftenposten (6 June 1962).
13  Ibid.

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