The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art


I can already hear the “What? Louisiana?!” comments.  No, we didn’t sneak in a trip to the southern US (although that would be fun) … we went to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art located in Humlebæk, 35 km (22 mi) north of Copenhagen. We took the train up there, and it only took about 45 minutes. There were hints of water off to the side, but we never got a good view of the Oresund until we were actually at the museum.

The front entrance for the Museum is quite nondescript.

Unfortunately there was a light rain when we arrived, but they’ve just started a free bike-taxi from the station to the museum. I felt like a bit of a dork getting into the back (it looks a lot like a fancy rickshaw), and I felt bad for the poor guy peddling us in the rain … but we gave him a good tip and he looked young and healthy.  It’s about a 15 minute walk, on flat ground with a good sidewalk, from the station to the museum (I know because we walked back!)  But the bike-taxi is a nice idea for inclement weather or those with disabilities (or idiot tourists who don’t have umbrellas).

I believe this piece is by Henry Moore, but don't quote me on that.

The entrance to the museum is quite simple. In fact, if I didn’t know it was there, I probably would have walked right past it. It’s in a residential neighborhood because the property used to be a private home, and while there are about 20 parking spots along the street in front, there were certainly a number of people there.

Let me explain why it’s called the Louisiana. It has nothing to do with Cajun Country, and everything to do with three women named Louise. The original owner of the property, Alexander Brun, had three wives, and all three happened to share the same name. (What they don’t tell you is whether those three wives were concurrent or consecutive … but I guess this is Denmark, not Utah!)

The museum was started in 1958 when Brun contact the architects  Vilhelm Wohlert and Jørgen Bo, who designed a series of galleries connected by glass walkways. This original idea is still at the core of the museum, and the glass corridors are one of my favorite things. You’re interacting with nature from inside (just the way Alex likes it!) – or, perhaps it’s better to say that nature comes inside with you, while leaving all the nasty cold and wetness out.

The Louisiana specializes in Modern Art, as evidenced by the name. They have famous works from artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg and Asger Jorn. Some of these artists I recognized, but some were new to me. The mixture of painting, scultpure, and other media really hit home several times as we wandered around the grounds. The sculpture garden has works by  Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Max Bill, Alexander Calder, Henri Laurens, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Miró and Henry Moore. Personally, I really liked the Henry Moore, but the Calder is, of course, the most famous and recognizable piece.

Looking out from the main house over the Øresund Sound.

The first exhibit we saw was the Summer Collection, which was organized under the theme of ‘Every place has a story – Every story has a place’. From their website:

The phenomenon of place is the point of departure for this summer’s showing of works from the Louisiana collection. There are the classic subjects like the landscape with forest and hills, the cityscape with square and the towers, the painting of the living room with a couple of figures.

But the fascination of the ‘placed’, of the site-specific, does not stop there. There are experienced and remembered places, there are imagined places, and there is the idea of the ideal place. Works of art are created in particular places, and they may be about particular places. But they also end up in particular places – for example at a museum. There they can at last ‘take place’ – with the viewer who is in place. Each work is a world that meets yours.

I really loved this collection – we spent more than an hour gazing at the different works.  Below are a few of my favorites, along with a humorous story of mistaken identity.

This piece is called "A Closer Grand Canyon" and was painted by David Hockey. I couldn't even fit the whole canvas in my frame - but the colors were stunning.

Malcolm Morley's "Pacific Telephone - Los Angeles Yellow Pages" was created in 1971. I love the juxtaposition of the fault lines and earthquake epicenter over the Yellow Pages - the artist has condensed the entire population of the city, as well as all the destructive power of an earthquake, into a single image.

This is the funny story. We saw a card on wall identifying something as an Antony Gormley piece called "So Above So Below". I was excited because I particularly like Gormley's work. But when we looked around, all we could see were these collection of rocks on the floor. I was confused because Gormley is known for using his own body to cast his works, and I've never heard of a Gormley that wasn't distinctive in this way. So I started to think, maybe he cast the rocks? Maybe they're fake rocks? We were both puzzled until we walked across the room and looked up, and there, dangling above us, was the Gormley. (I never did figure out who did the rocks.)

Unmistakable!

After we left the Places exhibit, we headed over to the Cafe. It had been specially recommended to me by a co-worker, so I was looking forward to some yummy Danish food. I had a really great ham and cream cheese sandwich, which sounds simple, but was deliciously tasty.  Alex pooh-poohed a proper lunch, and instead misbehaved and got TWO deserts: a strawberry torte and a cinnamon roll.

Don't worry. The diet (for both of us!) started the day we got home.

The Cafe is great because it looks out on the lawn and sculpture garden. And just down a slight hill is the Øresund Sound (and off in the distance is Sweden). We watched the Calder piece twirl in the wind, while the rain showers came and went and came once again.

The arms move in the wind, so it's a constantly changing piece - which makes it hard to get just the right picture!

After lunch we walked through David Hockney’s exhibit My Draw on iPad. Those of you who know me know that I am a great art appreciator, but not much of an artist myself. But this exhibit was so inspiring, it made me want to run out and create something. Really, it was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved by something.  Unfortunately no pictures are allowed in the exhibit, but I’ve found a few online to share to give you an idea.

This is the poster for the exhibit - sadly there were no photographs allowed inside!

I really think that digital art, such as what Hockney has created on an iPad, is like stained-glass for the 21st century. It’s bright, it’s luminous, it’s colorful, it’s crisp … it doesn’t translate to another media (like print) at all. As Hockney points out in the introduction to the exhibit, these pieces were created in their medium and should only be displayed in their medium – on an iPad. One of the most interesting parts was that Hockney recorded the creation of  some of these “canvasses”, and they replayed them stroke by stroke. So you can see how he did it, layer by layer.  At first glance one could look at it and say “Yeah sure, my kid could do that” … but if you watch the process of creation, it’s quite obvious that it’s much more complicated.  I’ve probably said enough about this one exhibit, but I really can’t rave enough about how amazing it was. I would have bought an iPad on the spot if I could only have gotten his works to go with it!

After the Hockney I admit that I had a bit of a misconception. I thought were were pretty much done. I knew there was the shop, and maybe one other wing on the other side, but  I figured another hour or two and we’d be finished. Ha!  Little did I know that the other wing leads down to multiple levels below ground … and around … and over … and up … and it never ends!

Walking through one of the conecting corridors made of glass. Someday, if we're ever rich enough to design our own house, it's definitely going to be inspired by this!

I wish we’d had more energy / time to enjoy the rest of the exhibits at the Louisiana. There was a fascinating collection all about architecture and urban living, but by that point we were both exhausted! We spent a total of about 6 hours at the Louisiana, and I feel that we just scratched the surface. We could double or triple that time quite easily, and still have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.  In fact, we’re already talking about making a special trip to Denmark just to go back to this museum!

I'm having kittens about this spiral staircase. Look at those line! Looks at those shapes! AAAHH!!! It's so fabulous it's making my gall bladder hurt.

And just so you know … I’m not the only one raving. Alex says “It might be the best (and most enjoyable)  art museum I’ve ever seen!” … and that’s pretty impressive praise.

Reclining Figure, by Henry James.

Alex walking across a water feature, with art in the background, of course.

Looking out over the sculpture park - it's impossibly beautiful.

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Posted on 31/08/2011, in travel, Travel to Europe and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very interesting. Louisiana museum in Denmark – sounds really exotic. I love art in its different forms, although I love more traditional art. The human figure in photo # 4351 is my favorite. Great interesting post.

    In my newest post I present Wooden outsider art.

    It is wooden art made by ordinary people, but should not be underestimated. Humor, yes there one can find.

    Happy blogging.

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