ARKEN Museum of Modern Art is a monumental landmark surrounded by a man-made beach scape just south of Copenhagen. The museum showcases one of Scandinavia’s finest collections of contemporary art, and the maritime-inspired architecture has gained the museum international renown.
One of Denmark’s newest contemporary art museums, the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art was inaugurated on 15 March 1996 by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II. Prior to this, years had been spent to ensure that this coastal location in Ishøj just south of Copenhagen would become a significant player in Danish cultural life.
The young architecture student, Søren Robert Lund, surprised the establishment by winning the design competition with a Deconstructivist museum, which resembled a giant beached ship.
The ship metaphor is also evident in the huge indoor gallery axis, which is shaped like a hull with tall, heavy doors of iron, exposed rivet-like bolts and metal staircases. This distinctive and bold design provides the framework for a large collection of contemporary art and special exhibitions.
ARKEN’s purpose and area of responsibility:
- ARKEN is a nationally recognised museum. By collecting, registering, storing, researching and communicating in the world of modern art, ARKEN’s goal is to safeguard Denmark’s cultural heritage. The museum aims to spread knowledge of and highlight conditions and changes in modern art.
- ARKEN is a local, regional and international art museum. ARKEN is suitable for all ages, with particular focus on communicating with children and young people. ARKEN works positively and reciprocally with other art museums, both locally and internationally.
- ARKEN is constantly strengthening its collection and exhibiting new works. The collection is made available for research. In years to come, the museum will strengthen the way it communicates results from both the museum’s own research and other research based on the museum’s collection.
The collections consist of more than 400 artworks, mainly by Danish, Nordic and international contemporary artists, primarily representing the period after 1990.
There are two underpinning themes: (1) human condition of modern man and (2) about art that, via new materials, art forms and media, questions the very definition of art.
Distinguished exponents of both these subjects are the British “enfant terrible” Damien Hirst (b. 1965) and the German Anselm Reyle (b. 1970). Both are well represented at the museum with entire galleries dedicated to their works.
The controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) is represented with one of his major pieces: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads from 2010. Danish and Nordic artists, such as Olafur Eliasson, Elmgreen and Dragset, Jeppe Hein and Tal R are also represented at the museum.
Island of Art:
The sea is set to move closer to the museum over the next year when the surrounding nature is landscaped to create an ‘Island of Art’ encompassed by water and with access to the museum via bridges. This will reconcile the museum’s distinctive maritime design with the coastal landscape, offering a unique architectural experience with references to a beached ship or arch replete with inspired modern art.