LETH & GORI - The Art of Building


One of the series of exhibitions of the Dreyers Arkitektur Galleri to show the work of new or young architects, architectural practices and studios.

For this exhibition the architects have produced a timber-framed structure that steps down three levels of the gallery and creates distinct partly- enclosed spaces where models and photographs of their buildings are displayed.

Dreyers Arkitektur Galleri at DAC

Leth & Gori

the exhibition continues at the Danish Architecture Centre until 5 October 2018


Din ting - vores historie / Your thing - our history

Thirty objects have been chosen to show trends or mark events that have had an impact and that, in some ways, might represent life in Denmark over the 17 years since the beginning of this century. 

Fifteen objects are from the collection of the museum - important because it makes the point that this is a national museum that is not just about a distant or remote past but is relevant now and looks at the full social and political history of the country through the artefacts it collects because history can be as close as yesterday.

Fifteen objects were selected by a committee from objects suggested by the public. Again this is important because academic staff might feel that they are ‘across’ the major trends of contemporary life and culture but it always helps to get a broad viewpoint. After all, the idea of diversity or at least open discussion about diversity is itself an aspect of life in most modern democracies.

Very few of the objects are what would be defined as design pieces - if your definition of design follows what is seen in design museums or design magazines - but again this exhibition reinforces the most general principle that all man-made objects are designed. They have to be, even if the design is kept in the mind as work starts, and any commercial object that is industrially produced has to be designed - has to be contrived. A manufactured object might not be beautiful or it might not be good design but designed it is.

What is interesting, with these thirty objects, is that many are utilitarian so make life easier and can be game changing or life changing. Included would be the single-cup coffee maker that uses capsules of fresh coffee - OK not exactly life saving but pretty important to some of us - along with an NEM ID card for online security; a pair of trainers, and a trailer used to take rubbish to the recycling centre at weekends. 

The trailer is evidence of distinct social change but also change that is overtly political as people try, as individuals, to tackle the threat of climate change by sorting their rubbish.

There is also an iPhone from Apple - not to show the achievements of recent advances in technology but it is an ‘old’ model from 2011, cracked and, despite it’s initial cost, just given away to a charity shop. Nearby is a purse that is not here to represent money but here because its owner thought it is now redundant with the rapid movement towards a cashless society.

In fact, a surprising number of the objects reflect what has been dramatic and, in some instances, traumatic political and social change in Denmark through the first years of this century. 

  • there is a cobble or stone sett thrown in street fighting in 2007 when police cleared protestors from Ungdomshuset, the Youth House, in Jagtvej in Nørrebro when the building was demolished  

  • a full-length red evening dress worn to get into a formal dinner for the UN Climate Change Conference in 2009 so a banner could be unfurled as a protest

  • sweets and packaging from Malaco because when the confectionary factory in Scalgelse was closed, when production was moved to Slovakia, it had a huge impact on the community

  • a school assessment form included to show how much pressure there is now on children to achieve top grades and also, and in some ways related, capsules for anti depressants and a roughly made market stall with the sign ‘Ryg med hjem’ or ‘Hash to Go’ from Pusher Street in Christiania

  • glass from Krudttønden - the community centre in Serridslevvej - that was shattered by a bullet when a meeting about Freedom of Speech was attacked before the perpetrator went on to attack the synagogue in the centre of the city

  • a fake road sign that was set up in Thisted in 2016 to show the direction for migrants and asylum seekers to go to get home

Some objects are intensely personal but reflect much wider social issues so there is a wig worn by a patient undergoing treatment for cancer.

Some of the objects were chosen to represent more vague concepts or ideas that are actually important to people … so there was a small Danish flag - the Dannebrog seen at so many events and in so many homes - and a book about hygge along with  the suit worn by the first Danish astronaut and a football shirt worn by Nadia Nadim with pictures of the successful Danish Women's European Championship team …. so all about a quiet, generally undemonstrative, pride that Danes feel for their country.

There are comments by people about each object - far from all being positive - and around the exhibition are bound booklets with these comments and details of the exhibition in English. Well worth reading. 

If you want to try to begin to understand what it is to be Danish in the 21st century then a good starting point is this brilliant exhibition.

the exhibition continues at Nationalmuseet / National Museum of Denmark
Prinsens Palæ, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 Copenhagen K


Bagsider / Flip Sides


For the Golden Days Festival this year the theme was The B-sides of History so, for this exhibition, the curators at Statens Museum for Kunst took that literally and present the backs of paintings and drawings in their collection.

And it is fascinating.

The exhibition is relatively small and shown in an almost-square gallery space just off the Sculpture Street with views out over the park so there is pleasant natural light and it is well worth spending time here to look at the works and read the well-written and thought-provoking labels and information panels. 

A number of paintings and drawings are shown in double-sided display cases - so that you can examine both sides - but most are turned face to the wall and they are grouped under four themes:

  • process, technique and conservation

  • recycling

  • back or front?

  • traces and signs

The first group looks at materials used to make a work of art and it is fascinating to see how considerable craftsmanship went into producing the ground for the painting or drawing particularly for paintings here on panels or on planks of wood but there are also examples of important studio techniques like pricking holes in an initial drawing so that pounce or black powder could be used to either transfer the outline or to reverse the image.

Several works show how a drawing or painting could be abandoned and the other side used for a different work.

In a few examples the view of the back shows that both sides of a work were in fact to be seen - particularly for doors that covered an altarpiece that would have an image to be seen when the door was closed and a second image that was revealed when the door was open and it flanked the main central panel. However several works play clever games with that idea so a work by Cornelis Gijsbrecht is the solid door of a cabinet but painted as if it was glazed and with the contents of the cupboard as an image and with some items painted as if they were stuck to the inside of the glass. The back of the door has a painting of the back of what was stuck to the glass. One work, also by Gijsbrecht, shows what appears to be the back of a unpainted wooden frame held with wooden pegs and with nails and the back of the canvas but the whole thing is painted.

For the social historian or simply for anyone curious about how paintings can be dated and their attribution confirmed, then the back of a painting can reveal huge amounts of evidence from plausible to incongruous techniques that do or don’t tally with what the painting on the front is telling us to makers labels for the panels or canvases the artists bought ready made to the labels from auctions or the labels and notes pasted on the back by collectors or by galleries.  

the exhibition continues at Statens Museum for Kunst until 10 March 2019


The reverse of a Dutch painting - a half-length portrait of an old man painted in the late 17th century on two planks of oak. The planks include sapwood, which is unusual and the curators conclude this suggests the at the panel was not of the highest quality. Note how the edges are bevelled to hold the panel in slots on the inner edge of the frame.

If a work is to go to an exhibition with several venues so might need a more controlled environment, then the gallery produces special frames where the work is sealed in a ‘micro climate’.

A painting of Board Game Players by Pieter SymonszPotter (1597/1600-1652). On the back is a drawing of a castle or manor house and the seal of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf with the name of the artist.

Labels on the back record that the painting by Carpeaux was shown in exhibitions at the Petit Palais in Paris and the Musees de Nice.

The label on the back shows that A View from the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis from 1844 was painted by Rørbye on millboard from Robert Davy, a London frame maker and restorer, but as Rørbye is not known to have visited London then the board may have been bought from a foreign dealer and possibly while he was travelling.

A trompe l’oeil by the Flemish painter Cornelis Gijsbrecht with what appears to be a canvas in a frame but all painted.

Painting of working horses cut down and used for a new work.

Untitled work from 1945 by Asger Jorn (1914-1973) The artist had returned from Paris and his style of work was going through a period of transition so, in effect, abandoning a work to paint a new work on the back might be seen to reflect this. The photograph on the left shows the painting on the front.

Take My Breath Away - an exhibition by Danh Vo

LOG DOG, 2013


Generally, art and sculpture are not reviewed here - on a site that focuses on architecture and design - but this extensive exhibition, showing work by the artist Danh Vo from the last fifteen years, includes pieces that he has chosen from the collection of the gallery and these are presented in a way that challenges our perceptions and preconceptions and uses the architectural space extending across the lobby and the Sculpture Street of the gallery as well as the two main exhibition spaces.

Works include sculpture, furniture, Chinese pavilions in timber and artefacts including letters and photographs. It is the juxtaposition of these elements - so a television and refrigerator and a crucifix together - that tests the boundaries we impose between art works, found objects, discarded or broken art and more mundane household objects that never-the-less have strong and important personal associations.

Danh Vo was born in Vietnam in 1975 and came to Denmark with his family when he was four years old. His work explores themes of migration, colonialism and religion. In the exhibition is a chandelier that hung above the table in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the treaty ending the Vietnam War was signed. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen and at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. 

the exhibition continues at Statens Museum for Kunst until 2 December 2018


Chinese pavilions - the pavilion in the middle lobby area with the bronze sculpture It’s Just Not a Waiting Room by Danh Vo from 2013 and the pavilion in the north exhibition hall with commercial shelving used to display some of the works


Sculpture Street with statues from the Royal Cast Collection shown in groups and set on wooden pallets


Bronze from Pinault Collection

MA TI LONG, 2016
Bamboo bird cage on Roman Corinthian column

Roman torso of Venus in marble


03.01.1752, 2015
German porcelain recovered from the wreck of the trading ship Geldermalsen that sunk in the South China Sea
Set on a sandstone eagle

08.03, 28.05, 2009
Chandelier from the Hotel Majestic in Paris from above a table where the Paris Peace Accord was signed


Practice Futures


A major exhibition, Practice Futures, has opened at KADK - the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.

The full title of the exhibition is Technology in Architecture, Practice Future, Building Design for a New Material Age, and this is an import examination of that area, if you see it in terms of a Venn Diagram, where the disciplines or professional expertise of architecture, engineering, techniques of construction and the development and the technology of materials meet and overlap.

Fifteen research projects are presented here from international PhD students working in six major European research departments and working with fourteen established partners including major architectural practices, engineering companies and construction companies.

These ongoing studies are reassessing well-established materials such as timber and concrete and rediscovering or reassessing or developing techniques to shape, bend, finish and join materials to achieve new forms of construction such as large scale, computer-controlled extrusion or printing and the development of new materials for large-scale building projects. 

This is about new tools and new approaches for reassessing traditional materials and established craft techniques but also about using computers to assess complex information; to solve unconventional design problems and to control systems for constructing new forms and new types of building. 

Projects presented here are prototypes to demonstrate customised solutions to realise challenging new construction projects that not only have to take into account the need for high energy conservation but also have to tackle rapidly-developing problems or social pressures from population growth, and, as a direct consequence, find new solutions to the demands of cities that are growing at an unprecedented speed. This is construction design trying to deal with political and economic constraints and with the added and pressing demands of global climate change.

KADK Udstillingen og Festsalen
Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 51-53
1435 København K

the exhibition continues until 7 December 2018


umsicht regards sguardi 17 - SIA at Design Werck


An exhibition has opened at Design Werck in Copenhagen to show major engineering and design projects that were selected for their annual award in 2017 by SIA … the Schweizerischer Ingenieur- und Architektenverein or the Swiss association of engineers and architects.

“The SIA invited architects, engineers, public authorities, companies, investors, and private and public developers to submit projects covering schemes of any size. Each project was then judged on the design’s response to its environment and on the way it applied solutions that would meet users’ needs in an exemplary or novel way.”

Six projects received awards and two others were given honourable mentions for their pioneering roles in designing evolutionary living spaces and their contribution to the sustainability of Switzerland’s built environment

Photographs are by Beat Schweizer and films are by Marc Schwartz.

The exhibition continues at Design WERCK until 7 October 2018




Education Chair no. 2 by Daniel Svarre 2018


The annual Autumn fair in Copenhagen for contemporary art opened on Friday 31 August and then continues through the 1 and 2 September. CHART celebrates “Copenhagen’s tradition of art, design and architecture, and its values of liveability and inclusion.”

The main venue - with 32 galleries from the Nordic region participating to show paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography - is in the rooms on the first floor at Kunsthal Charlottenborg … the home of The Royal Danish Academy of Art on Kongens Nytorv .

Over the weekend there are also many events including CHART FILMS, CHART TALKS and CHART PERFORMANCES and CHART MUSIC.

Kunsthal Charlottenborg



CHART Architecture - the Pavilions

designed by Malte Harrig, Karsten Bjerre and Katrine Hoff


In the two large courtyards of Kunsthal Charlottenborg are five pavilions … the setting for what is called CHART SOCIAL.

These pavilions or CHART ARCHITECTURE are the winning designs from an open competition held earlier in the year for young architects and architecture and design students.



by Dennis Andersson, Mikkel Roesdahl and Xan Browne

by Sofia Luna Steenholdt, Joachim Makholm Michelsen, Emil Bruun Meyer and Casper Philip Ebbesen

designed by Jan Sienkiewicz

designed by Sean Lyon in collaboration with Space 10





This is the sixth ‘edition’ of CHART but, for the first time, there is also a CHART Design Fair at the gallery of Den Frie on Oslo Plads in Østerport where twelve galleries from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are showing furniture and contemporary glass and ceramics.

In the basement gallery at Den Frie is an installation by benandsebastian entitled Department of Voids … a space in two halves divided by a glass wall with the two parts mirrored … one with empty museum storage cases and the answering part beyond the glass with the objects reimagined and in glass.

Den Frie

an exhibition to mark 100 years of political cartoons in Denmark

Bring up the subject of design and politics in a conversation and most people would assume that you are going to launch into a complaint about cuts in funding for teaching design or to talk about the depressing reality of how little art is commissioned by so many governments set against how much dubious art is commissioned by too many despots.

But design has always had a part to play in political life - even if it is only that each party ends up being identified by a specific colour and tries to use an appropriate and easily identified style in their graphics. I'm amazed by just how many posters appear on bridge parapets, trees and lamp posts here during an election and you quickly spot which belongs to which party.

At the moment - in front of the parliament building in Copenhagen - there is an outdoor exhibition to mark 100 years of political cartoons in Denmark and it demonstrates a surprising willingness by politicians to show, on their front step, how the popular papers saw and depicted their predecessors and how cartoonists saw and interpreted major events.