Striking Structures for Modern Art: Louisana and Arken

Article excerpt

Copenhagen is not a city to rush through, particularly not now while it holds the European Union title, "Cultural Capital of Europe" for 1996. An exciting year-long program of festivals, concert series and exhibitions is under way, featuring music, dance, photography, theater, architecture, literature, visual arts and much more-so much that it could be difficult to decide what to see, especially if you are there for a short visit.

Faced with such an embarrassment of riches, you will do well to consider these "must sees" in the realm of visual arts-the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, considered one of Europe's most beautiful museums, and the brand-new Arken Museum of Modern Art, a bold paradigm of contemporary architecture. Even though both cover similar ground in the arts, they are quite different in that each has its own distinctive character. Both are well-worth a visit.

The art museums are located near Copenhagen, one south and the other north, and can reached by bus or train. Consider purchasing a "Copenhagen Card" which allows free admission and transportation to both Louisiana and Arken, as well as to other cultural attractions. You can obtain such a card at hotels, the main train station or at the Copenhagen Tourist Information office which is located next to Tivoli Gardens.

Boldly Innovative

Of the two art museums, Arken (The Ark) is closest to the city. It is located amidst the coastal dunes in Ishoj, a former fishing village 15 kilometers south of Copenhagen. Architecturally striking and innovative, it is a work of art itself, in no way resembling a conventional art museum. The stark white structure, made of concrete and steel, looks like the hull of a beached ship. The nautical theme is beautifully integrated with the surrounding landscape and the horizontal line of the shore.

Arken was designed by Danish architect, Soren Robert Lund. At age 26, he entered and won the nationwide competition while a student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts' School of Architecture and Planning. Now, eight years later, he has seen its completion. The 9,200 square-meter museum opened its doors in March and is already attracting worldwide attention as an outstanding example of a 21 st Century cultural landmark.

The building's interior is also atypical and imaginative, consisting of a maze of various-sized exhibition rooms, the most dominant one being the central gallery. Called the Kunstaksen, it resembles the nave of a church, with its 12-meter-high ceiling running the entire length of the building. Adjacent to it are a concert hall, film amphitheater, small graveled courtyards with sculptures and a restaurant with a view of the sea. The interior entryways have been compared to massive U-boat doors, the corridors to floating catwalks.

Lund has followed a long-standing Danish craft tradition in undertaking the detailed design of the furnishings of the building as well as the structure itself. Thus, he designed the glass showcases, chairs that resemble Roman army tabourets, the door handles, and even the pastry cupboards in the kitchen.

There's much to observe at the Arken, from the furnishings to the art itself. While Copenhagen is serving as the European Cultural Capital for 1996, the museum's aim is to focus on important contemporary Danish art, according to the director, Anna Castberg. The inaugural-year program also includes a wide-range of exhibitions by both internationally renowned as well as lesser known artists.

The museum opened with a exhibit of the major paintings, drawings and graphics of Emil Nolde, the pioneer of Northern Expressionism, followed by a collaborative exhibit of the works of three prominent contemporary Danish artists, Michael Kvium, Christian Lemmerz and Erik A. Frandsen.

Four exhibitions are scheduled at Arken during the coming autumn months. "Why Sculpture?" is the title of one, featuring the works of young Danish sculptors. …