The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk 55 km (22 mil) north of Copenhagen opened its doors in 1958. At that time, it’s founder, Knud W. Jensen, intended it to establish a home for modern Danish art. However, a few years later he changed course and Louisiana became an international museum of modern art. But why is there a Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark?
Today, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art has an extensive permanent collection of modern and contemporary art as well as special exhibitions and is the most visited art museum in Denmark. Claude Monet was the focus of a major exhibition in 1994. When you enter through the modest courtyard and old country villa, you immediately will be surprised what opens up.
Louisiana’s close contact and collaboration with the international arts and cultural milieu has been one of the museum’s greatest strengths. The museum is also acknowledged as a milestone in modern Danish architecture, and is noted for its synthesis of art, architecture, and landscape.
Louisiana has achieved a standing as one of the world’s most respected exhibition venues, which is able to attract exhibitions and artists at a level that few other museums – either in Denmark or abroad – can match.
It can be said that Louisiana is inspired by German Bauhaus, the California Bay Area and Japanese architecture, but the intimacy, choice of materials and the light are unmistakably Danish.
Louisiana’s exhibition practices have followed the tradition at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which in the first half of the twentieth century had become famous – and notorious – for expanding the range of modern art to include architecture, design, photography, film and other genres. On its own account, Louisiana has also supplemented modern art with cultural and ethnographic exhibitions and placed an importance on the versatility of the program by highlighting the interplay among the various artistic fields.
The museum has a wide range of modern art paintings, sculptures and videos dating from World War II to the present day, including works by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney and Asger Jorn. The videos are often housed in room settings where the viewer is made to feel part of the scene being portrayed. Perched above the sea, there is a sculpture garden between the museum’s two wings with works by artists including Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, and Jean Arp.
Of particular interest is the Giacometti Gallery containing the collection of Giacomettis. The proportions of the gallery and the view of the lake form an artistic totality which is majestic, serene and breathtaking. The Sculpture Park, with its Henry Moores and Alexander Calders and view of the sea, is a reason in itself to visit the museum.
Louisiana is indeed a living museum. The interaction between art, architecture and nature and the museum’s strong commitment to literature, music, culture-policy, international dialogue etc. creates a constant dialogue with society and a transdisciplinary mindset. Only a handful of museums in the world have achieved such a well-tempered interplay between different disciplines.
Almost from the very beginning, Kund W. Jensen divided the exhibitions into hot and cold varieties, a technique he called the “sauna principle”. The hot consisted of artists that the guests already knew – the great modern classics – while the cold gave room for names the guests had never heard of. The trick WAS to combine the two so that the popular exhibitions attract guests who on the same occasion also get to see something other than what they would have come for themselves.
The Concert Hall was built in 1976 in connection with the West Wing which had been built in 1966 and 1971.
The South Wing opened in 1982 to make room to present more and larger exhibitions and pieces. The opening attracted prominent visitors.
In 2008, when Louisiana, upon the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, introduced evening hours, it was precisely in order to strengthen and further develop this tradition and way of thinking.
In 2010, the museum launches its annual Louisiana Literature festival. The festival features about forty writers from across the world. They perform on stages around the museum and in the sculpture park, and attract more than 10,000 people each year.
In late November 2012, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art launched Louisiana Channel, a web-TV channel contributing to the development of the museum as a cultural platform.
In 2013, the museum’s music department launched Louisiana Music, a webpage dedicated to musical videos produced by the museum in collaboration with world-famous musicians.
In proportion to the size of Denmark, Louisina’s membership club is one of the biggest in the world and on the rise. The amount of really young members aged 18-27 is growing most rapidly and has quadrupled in recent years.
So, why the name Louisiana?
The name of the museum derives from the first owner of the property, Alexander Brun (1814-93), who named the villa after his three wives, all called Louise. Knud W. Jensen chose to “take over” the name of the country house.
From Tuesday to Friday the museum is open from 11am to 10pm (from 11am to 6pm on Saturday and Sundays, and closed on Mondays).
Why is there a Louisiana Museum in Denmark? Written by Tor Kjolberg. Sources: Wikipedia / Louisiana Museum of Modern Art website