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Henrik Vibskov performance

Copenhagen Art Week. Ten Days of Celebrating Art 0

Anne Neimann Clement from Copenhagen

Copenhagen Art Week 2013
August 23 – September 1, 2013

Copenhagen now has its own art week. With performance-night, artist talks, listening theatre, art treasure hunts, and spectacular parties, the week focuses on the vivid, diverse and offbeat art that the metropolis offers. COPENHAGEN ART WEEK dedicates a week at the end of August to a cornucopia of art experiences, putting Copenhagen firmly on the international map as a capital for the visual arts.

Starting with Friday August 23, the extensive programme of COPENHAGEN ART WEEK will give the people of Copenhagen and the city’s many visitors a wealth of opportunities to explore the many exciting exhibitions at the art museums, art centres and art galleries in and around the capital. The week culminates on Friday, August 30, when the three art fairs – Chart Art Fair, Art Copenhagen and ALT_CPH – open for a packed weekend.


The main initiatives of the festival are two new communication concepts that guide you through the many events and exhibitions. COPENHAGEN ART WEEK will offer guided tours taking the audience to exhibitions in Copenhagen’s different neighbourhoods, as well as theme tours focusing on a specific subject or artistic medium – like photography, sculpture or video art. There will be special tours for families with children, art nerds and teenagers, so both art novices and art buffs have the chance to experience art from new and surprising perspectives.

Photo Reportage from Gallery Night in Copenhagen Art Week

Second, COPENHAGEN ART WEEK organizes two large-scale Gallery Nights that guide everyone who's interested through old, new, and upcoming galleries and art spaces. The first gallery night takes place on opening night, Friday, the 23rd of August, and takes the participants through the ancient City Centre and the newly restored and fancy meat-packing district in Vesterbro, thereby shining a spotlight on an art scene brimming with curiosity and enterprise.

But why have an art week in Copenhagen? And what is special about it? I've met with festival manager Julie Damgaard Nielsen, who took a break from her busy workday to answer my questions.

Fredagslounge - Louisiana Museum of Modern Art


COPENHAGEN ART WEEK is organised by the art portal KUNSTEN.NU. In their little office in the old warehouse on a dock at the bay, five people are trying their best to make the 10 days of celebrating art come true. The week before the big opening, lots of things still have to be done, but in spite of the confused and hectic atmosphere, everyone seems to be in a pretty good mood.

The first thing I would like to know is, is there anything special that characterizes Copenhagen Art Week?

If there is one theme for the festival, it's inclusion. The key word for us is inclusion; we do not choose, curate or decide who's in and who's out. COPENHAGEN ART WEEK is a platform for art, and that includes anything from the internationally respected art museum Louisiana, north of Copenhagen, to the alternative art spaces outside the city walls.

So isn't Copenhagen Art Week just a new name for what already takes place during Art Scene in Copenhagen?

Yes, and no. COPENHAGEN ART WEEK is, first of all, a communication and branding strategy that aims at gathering forces and working together across genres, institutions, and traditions, presenting the Copenhagen art scene in the best possible way. We have not asked all the different participators to come up with anything special for art week, but what happened is that a lot of them did. Galleries, institutions and project rooms are taking advantage of the opportunity for extra attention, and are organizing extraordinary artist talks, movie screenings and performances, among other things.

Because of the three big art fairs from the 30th to the 1st of September: ART CPH, CHART, and the more alternative ALT_CPH – there is already a lot of attention drawn towards the art scene in Copenhagen – and we benefit from that. Late summer has always been a special time for art in Copenhagen. This is when museums, art centres and galleries mark the opening of the new exhibition season, and all of these activities are now gathered under COPENHAGEN ART WEEK.

Commisoned by Trapholt Museum and Kolding - five outdoor installations by Henrik Vibskov on different location in the city of Kolding will take palce


It seems a bit over the top with three art fairs at the same time. Can you explain the differences between them?

First of all, Denmark’s international art fair, ART CPH, offers exciting art experiences from both upcoming and established galleries, and the chance to see works by artists from all over the world. In Forum at Frederiksberg, more than 57 galleries from 14 countries are presented among artist talks, debates, and the new initiative ART START. ART START is a comprehensive showing of one original work from each participating gallery, starting with a fixed price of 1000 Euros for each work of art.

Art auctions can be very stressful if you are new to them, but I think this could be a great way for first-time buyers who are not so used to attending these art auctions.

ART CPH is accompanied by CHART ART FAIR, which is the new art fair in Copenhagen focusing exclusively on contemporary art. CHART presents the best of 22 selected contemporary art galleries from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, featuring a collateral program of talks, films, performances and special events. In addition to the main fair, CHART also includes a ‘Special Projects’ section, which displays large-scale projects, installations and other special works in a purposely dedicated room, as well as throughout the premises.

Last, but not least, ALT_CPH is the meeting place for artist-run spaces and initiatives. This year’s art fair features 23 Danish and international artist-run spaces, in addition to an extensive program of debates, music and performances. ALT_CPH invited the artist Jørgen Carlo Larsen to create the physical framework for this year’s art fair, which is titled Concoction. He will occupy the space by creating an installation of simple sculptural elements made out of natural materials that activate the floor, ceiling and walls.

The three art fairs take place between August 30th and September 1st, and I think they mark Copenhagen as an art metropolis on a level with Berlin, London and Paris.

Roger Ballen. Head inside shirt (from the "shadow Chamber series"). 2001


I also wanted to know if Julie thinks there is anything typically "Danish" about Copenhagen Art Week. What makes it different from, for instance, Berlin Art Week, or London Art Week?

Well, that's a difficult question, and I wouldn't know what a similar festival in Berlin would look like. But what I do know is that the art scene of Copenhagen has never been more vivid, dynamic, and broad. During the last couple of years, a lot of new project room and artist-driven art spaces have entered the art scene. During the last decades, there was been a tendency for a lot of Danish artists to move to Berlin, New York or wherever, but now a lot of them have returned, and the young ones are staying. I see a lot of courage and passion, which is extraordinary in spite of the fact that we are still in a period of financial downturn. The economic crisis has definitely not stopped the innovative initiatives. And these new art spaces simply continue to surprise, enliven and move the more established institutions.

Do you think this lack of resources has forced the different institutions to collaborate?

Yes, probably a lot of the collaborations are due to the need for money. The five art institutions downtown – SMK, the Hirschspung Collection, the David Collection, Rosenborg Castle, the Film House and the Natural History Museum of Denmark – which have nothing in common except for being surrounded by the same park, have started a new collaborative initiative with themed exhibitions, guided tours, etcetera.

Another thing that's really special about the art scene of Copenhagen is the way that contemporary art has occupied both ancient historical buildings and abandoned industrial areas. There are no white cubes. The art coexists with old cultural centres, an old church, an old brewery, and the former meat-packing districts. The setting really adds something to the experience, and it's really worth noticing how contemporary art complements and enlivens these buildings. Especially Carlsberg, which is where they used to brew the famous Danish beer; it is really unique to this city. The area has turned into a vibrant and constantly moving scene for art, theatre, movie-making, dancing, eating, partying, and anything in between.

Internet Ear by Science Friction


So, where should one start exploring the abundance of exhibition activities and art events coming up during the ten-day festival?

I would definitely suggest to anyone to begin with one of our Guided Tours, or to join one of the two Gallery Nights, and then visit one of the three art fairs. If one is ready for more, I would suggest you go exploring some of the new initiatives in the old working-class areas outside of the city centre. You could, for instance, go check out Science Friction in Nørrebro, which is a relatively new project room; during the festival it will be presenting the installation "Internet Ear",which has been created by the famous artist Stelarc (b. 1946), who has previously performed with a Third Man, a virtual body and a sex legged walking robot, to explore alternate anatomical architectures. . The installation is, simultaneously, an intimate and extended interaction that explores the dynamics of sound as a globally circulating and connecting experience. By speaking into an ear on an arm, your voice will be heard and seen as text and projected to other locations in Europe, the USA, Asia, and Australia.

Moreover, COPENHAGEN ART WEEK experiments with new communication formats. For instance, the café Your New Friend is organizing an interactive video walk called "She has strawberries in her mouth", which straddles the border between presenting both historical facts and a fictional world. KUNSTEN.NU is also introducing its new podcast magazine with an audio walk on Outer Nørrebro; the walk introduces the listener to some of the hidden art spaces and different artists who have a unique relationship with the area.

Navneklud Køge, 2013. Photo: Hans Peter Auken Beck

So, who is Copenhagen Art Week for? The art enthusiasts, the tourists, or the international art collectors?

COPENHAGEN ART WEEK is for everyone. Because we assemble everything together under one name, we have something for everybody – for both art freaks and curious citizens. We have a special program for international curators and art collectors, but that doesn't mean that we don't invite the general public as well. We hope that the audience will be inspired to explore and experience something new. But it’s equally important for us that the region’s many art professionals feel the positive effects of embarking on a joint effort to strengthen the position of the region as an art capital.

Festival program: 

OBS: Copenhagen Art Week is not to be confused with Copenhagen Art Festival, which took place last year. In 2012, Nicolai Kunsthal, Den Fri Udstillingsbygning, Charlottenborg, Gammel Strand, and Overgaden collaborated on a specially-curated festival program. In contrast, Copenhagen Art Week doesn't do any curating – instead, they provide a communicative platform for all of the big and small art initiatives of Copenhagen, in order to highlight the vivid and colourful art scene of the city.