Beware of the Thief!

How Oslo’s newest boutique hotel is redefining the art experience

hotel reception, The Thief

A towering cowboy taming his horse dominates the lobby.  By US artist and photographer Richard Prince, this impressive art piece depicts the ideology of American masculinity, portraying substance, strength and fearlessness

I never thought Norway to be a country of forward-thinking creatives.  Now before anyone takes this the wrong way, I should clarify that it’s not a country that came ‘top-of-mind’…well not until now.  My recent trip to its capital city, Oslo, took me on a journey to its newest part of town called Tjuvholmen (Thief Island). Across 2000 metres waterfront, you can find a buzzing culture, creative entrepreneurs, happy people, impressive architecture, and a magnitude of modern art on every street corner.  Thief Island has it all, as well as a brand spanking new boutique hotel – THE THIEF – that just opened in January of this year.

Hip Oslo

Tjuvholmen (Thief Island), once home to criminals and shady dealings, is now a power centre for contemporary art and good city living at the water’s edge

Criminals and shady dealings

First of all, let me give you a bit of background to this redeveloped island of Oslo. Back in the days of the 18th century, Thief Island was given its name for a perfect reason. It was the ideal hunting ground where shady characters such as robbers and prostitutes would lurk around day and night.  It was a dark and grotty place where decent folk wouldn’t dare to enter, for fear of being lynch mobbed.

Over the years, the robbers and prostitutes left Thief Island in a sorry state.  And it wasn’t until recently that a Norwegian family-owned property development company gave it a new lease of life – minus the shady characters.   Today, the island, located South West of Oslo, is a power centre for contemporary art and good city living on the fjord’s water’s edge.

Art is the DNA of Thief Island. In fact, art galleries are the biggest commercial activity, greatly outnumbering clothing retail.

Art is the DNA of Thief Island. Art galleries are the most significant commercial activity, greatly outnumbering clothing retail.

The Thief

Good city living cannot be complete without a boutique hotel.  So when Norwegian hotelier and property developer, Petter. A. Stordalen was asked to develop a hotel on the island; he knew it couldn’t be the same as the majority of mid-size chain hotels seen in Oslo.  He wanted to orchestrate a concept that could act as a catalyst to synchronise the cultures of art and design, both on Thief Island and within the hotel, as well as giving a new meaning to ‘hotel art’.

Video installation by Norwegian artist Charlotte Thiis-Evensen - aestheticising the concept of individual freedom (Photo credit: Linn Carin Dirdal)

Video installation by Norwegian artist Charlotte Thiis-Evensen – aestheticising the concept of individual freedom (Photo credit: Linn Carin Dirdal)

Whether contemporary, controversial or both, art at THE THIEF is there for you to experience, while staying in a hotel that has great style, design and service.  Every wall, niche, or anywhere that you can stick a nail though has a mixture of Stordelen’s own extensive personal art collection, together with collections from its next-door neighbour at Renzo Piano-designed Astrup Fearnley Museum of Contemporary Art including works from Andy Warhol, Sir Richard Blake, Richard Prince and Bryan Ferry.

THE THIEF is the only hotel worldwide that has dedicated itself to the world of contemporary art by sponsoring an art museum, meaning that changing exhibitions also makes the art experience within the hotel just as unpredictable.

Suites at the Thief Oslo

Treating guests like rock stars and rock stars like guests. This suite was designed by superband Apparatjik – a collective of international music artists – formed in 2008 by Jonas Bjerre of the Danish band Mew, Guy Berryman of Coldplay, Magne Furuholmen of a-ha and music producer Martin Terefe

Digital Art

As we all know, art isn’t just oil and canvas.  The emphasis on digital art is really what sets The Thief apart from other hotels.  Waiting in a lift for example, which is known to be the most time wasting drags of day-to-day life, has now been radically changed at THE THIEF by having inside exclusively-made animated films by British contemporary artist Julian Opie.  I even made the journey from the top to the ground floor in both lifts as I found the animations so curiously entertaining. If I had a glass of champagne at hand, I would have stayed there much longer. Who knows if social gatherings in hotel lifts will become a trend in the future!

Art at The Thief

British visual artist Julian Opie exclusively-made two animated films for THE THIEF, including Joo Yeon contemplating her imminent wedding (Photo Credit: Studio Dreyer Hensley)

Overall, THE THIEF experience did rob me of something over the few days that I spent there, but it wasn’t my credit cards or my pearl earrings.  Instead, it could steal away the day-to-day stresses of life and replace them with fun, excitement and curiosity.   Art can be tedious if not curated in the right way, but at the Thief, art is funky, entertaining, engaging and constantly changing.  For the fast-moving contemporary travellers, staying in this hotel, encircled by a whole island of art lifestyle and culture is indeed not a mundane experience.

Your hotel

To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, The Thief, Oslo

Nathalie Salas

Nathalie Salas is a freelance travel writer and marketing consultant based between the UK, Italy and the UAE. Pursuing her passion of boutique hotels, she reviews hotels around the world as well as helping them to improve their marketing strategies. Nathalie is Editor & Founder of travel site Perfect Boutique Hotel, writing also for, Masquerade and Global Citizen.

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