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Copenhagen Art Week: Highlights From The Danish Capital


Now in its sixth year, Copenhagen Art Week has become a leading cultural event in the Danish capital, with over 30 galleries taking part and an array of talks, screenings, installations, and performances included in the extensive programme.

From the 22nd May until the 27th May this year, the already uber-welcoming capital city opened its arms to an influx of visitors eager to see the best art the city has to offer. Coinciding with ‘3 Days of Design’, the week’s schedule provided visitors, curators and exhibitors with a chance to explore the Danish contemporary art scene, combining to form what Program Director Christina Wilson called a “super ambitious” show. The art week here is fast establishing Copenhagen as an art metropolis — a space where both internationally recognized and burgeoning artists are encouraged to flourish creatively. We cycled from gallery to gallery across the city in a bid to see the most impressive exhibitions: from an interactive walk-through exhibition in the recently opened Danish Architecture Center, to a journey through personal and political underground tunnels, the week proved to be eye-opening and the experience, enduring.

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‘Vogue Like A Painting’ at GL Strand

Irving Penn, Nick Knight, Cecil Beaton, and others come together for this captivating exhibition that traces Vogue’s relationship with photography, art, and fashion. With over 60 photographs hung on the quaint but beautiful walls of the GL Strand Gallery, ‘Vogue Like a Painting’ provides an in-depth look into how artistic movements such as the rococo and the Renaissance have influenced Vogue’s aesthetic and photographic direction. Iconic images such as Vermeer’s 1665 ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ reworked by photographer Erwin Blumenfeld demonstrate the inextricable links between fine art and fashion photography. A small room on the top floor allows visitors to watch a rotating series of Vogue documentaries, including ‘The September Issue’ and insightful interviews with some of the exhibited photographers.

001 Untitled, Erwind Olaf 2013 © Erwind Olaf, care of Kong Gallery and Galeria Espacio Minimo
002 One Enchanted Evening, Peter Lindbergh 2012 © Peter Lindbergh Studio, care of Gagosian Gallery
003 Untitled, Cecil Beaton 1936 © Cecil Beaton
004 Untitled, Nick Knight 2013 © Nick Knight

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‘Multiple Shadow House’ by Olafur Eliasson

The Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson returned to the land of his birth with this colorful installation. Situated within the Danish Architecture Center arm of the new Blox complex — an OMA-designed geometric glazed structure that opened earlier this month — the free-standing “house” incorporates a light installation that plays with space and perspective. Spread across three rooms that are empty save for a set of multicolored lights that line back of each room, the installation is designed to make visitors question the relationship between their shadow and space. Commenting on the performative effects of the installation, Eliasson highlights how you “become activated by your own shadow…” as your perspective is reversed and “the social structures we have become accustomed to move and navigate within” are flipped on their head. As visitors move through the rooms, walking in front of the lights, their shadows are cast in different sizes and shapes. The shadow — something we see every day — becomes then an alien entity that changes our custom museum behavior. Curious by the altering optical effects, visitors self-ied, danced and giggled across the rooms, playing with the devil-on-their-shoulder shadow as they went.

‘Multiple Shadow House’ by Olafur Eliassion
Images © Rasmus Hjortshøj and Danish Architecture Center (DAC)

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‘In is the only way out’ by Jeppe Hein at The Cisternerne

Buried in a hill underneath the grounds of the plush Frederiksberg Palace, The Cisterns or ‘Cisternerne’ originally functioned as Copenhagen’s subterranean reservoir, holding 16 million liters of clean drinking water. For Danish artist Jeppe Hein, its cold climate (it has a mean temperature of just 9ºC) and lack of light couldn’t be a more enticing space. Taking up the entire 4320 square meters of The Cisterns, ‘In is the only way out’ invites visitors to wander through the eerie underground passageways, learning to explore their inner selves along the way. The labyrinthian walkways have been separated into three different phases of the journey: the first marked by a sense of stillness that is punctuated only by a single flame that surprisingly bursts into life as visitors draw near. The second by a series of round, rotating mirrors which heightens the sense of disorientation found among the dark colonnades. The third is located deep within the tunnels, where sound and visuals come together. A sensor detecting visitor movement sends a ball to collide with Tibetan swinging bowls, producing a ringing sound. The rather shocking drop in temperature (Copenhagen saw highs of 25 degrees over the art week) along with the unsettling atmosphere made the journey an awakening experience.

‘In is the only way out’ by Jeppe Hein
Images © Anders Sune Berg

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‘Shadowed Forms’ curated by Kevin Francis Gray at Andersen’s

For the first time in over five decades, British sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s work made its way to Danish territory to be shown as part of a group exhibition dedicated to her 1972 work ‘Sheltered Form’. “At the core of that group is of course Barbara Hepworth, whose work has inspired me since high school. I wanted this show to feel like an exhibition created out of inspiration and respect for both the past and the future” says Irish sculptor and curator of ‘Shadowed Forms’, Kevin Francis Gray. The exhibition which includes video, sculpture, painting and more effortlessly blends past and future talent, with Hepworth’s great presence in the form of her ‘Sheltered Form’ presiding over audiovisuals from artists such as Samson Kambalu. Linking all works is the idea of the body, or the absence of body — as suggested by the exhibition title.Francis Gray’s hanging marble sculptures, positioned symmetrically behind Hepworth’s sculpture, though made of cold, hard marble look porous to the touch. The slabs look as if Gray had taken his forefinger and pulled it through a sheet of snow or ice cream, leaving a smooth groove. Up close, the two sculptures appear as unorganized linear forms whereas if from a distance, one begins to see the outline of a female form. This playful use of perspective permeates the gallery, making visitors work to draw out themes and relationships between the expertly curated exhibition.

‘Shadowed Forms’ curated by Kevin Francis Grey
Images © Morten Jacobsen

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Gabriele Münter at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Located a short while outside of the city center, landscaped lawns and an unparalleled view of the ocean provide the backdrop for the exhibitions at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. On show at the time of writing are ‘Picasso Ceramics’, ‘Ed Ruscha, Very’ and ‘Gabriele Münter’. Münter’s was the standout show, spanning two floors of the museum’s south wing and featuring over 140 of the German painter’s works. A proponent of Expressionist art, Münter’s extraordinary oeuvre is often overlooked and overshadowed by her partner Wassily Kandinsky. This exhibition sets out to change that, presenting for the first time since 1992 Münter’s life’s work. Organized thematically, Münter’s artistic prowess is given full recognition, as visitors explore her extensive stylistic range, intense use of color and the beauty of her simplistic use of form.

001 Sinnende II, Gabriele Münter 1928
002 Fräulein Ellen im Gras, Gabriele Münter 1934
003 Haus in Schwabing, Gabriele Münter 1911
004 Stilleben vor dem gelben Haus, Gabriele Münter 1953
© Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München

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Cover image © Anders Sune Berg



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