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#AlexIsrael. Photo: Christian Øen, Astrup Fearnley Museet 2016

Art Agenda: the Nordic countries 0

A selection of the most significant exhibitions for the coming months: the Nordic countries

There are two Danish artists who are convinced that only the viewer can make an artwork complete: Jeppe Hein, whose works will be on view through mid-autumn in Norway; and Martin Bigum, whose show will take place right there in his home country of Denmark. It’s worth mentioning that Denmark’s cultural calendar for the rest of the year is quite ambitious: in October, Joana Vasconcelos – one of today’s most spirited women artists – will be revealing her largest yet site-specific installation: a 50-meter-long Valkyrie; and British eccentric Grayson Perry will be surprising the public with his rather risque ceramic vases. Meanwhile, Tony Oursler will be pulling his iconic faces in Stockholm, while Helsinki will be overcome by the red-dot-fever of Yayoi Kusama. 


Reflection, by Jeppe Hein
Kistefos-Museet, Jevnaker
Through October 9, 2016

Jeppe Hein 

The works of internationally-known Danish artist Jeppe Hein can be called either art, architecture, or technology. Whichever genre he may choose, the viewer is always of the utmost importance to him. But in Hein’s mind, the viewer is a full-blooded “art sponge” who not only perceives his works with his or her eyes, but with the whole body and with all of his or her senses.

Read in the Archive: An interview with Jeppe Hein

At Hein’s exhibitions, the public is invited to come up close to the work and touch it, sit down, lie down, turn it or walk on it – and only through this interaction do the artist’s works reveal themselves in their entirety. The “Reflection” exhibition features a selection of Hein’s works created between 2002 and 2016.

Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
Through September 11, 2016

#AlexIsrael at Astrup Fearnley Museet. Photo: Christian Øen, Astrup Fearnley Museet 2016

After seeing a show by artist Alex Israel, people tend to say: “Alex is soooo LA!” Los Angeles born and bred, Israel is well-known not only for his graphic artworks, paintings, and sculptures, but also for founding the eyeglass label Freeway Eyewear, and producing the talk-show “As It Lays”. The main guests on “As It Lays” are local LA celebrities, so it only follows that in Israel’s artwork, Los Angeles and various forms of portraying the city are at the core of it. With its dynamic film, technology, media and pop-culture scene, this California city serves as both a source of raw materials and the inspiration for Israel’s art, in which he then explores the city’s spirit and aesthetics.

At the exhibition at the Fearnley, Israel sets up a dichotomy between the real LA, and how the city is usually portrayed in stories about the film industry, celebrities, and the American dream. With a surprising and original visual language, and a multifaceted artistic approach, Israel creates new links between the art and cultural history of today’s LA, and that of the past. The central site-specific object in the museum’s show is a life-size pier, which, along with other characteristic features of LA, carries the visitor into this city’s dreamworld.

Jasper Johns + Edvard Munch
Munch Museum, Oslo
Through September 25, 2016

Edvard Munch: Self-Portrait. Between the Clock and the Bed, 1940–43. © Munchmuseet | Jasper Johns, Corpse and Mirror II, 1974–65. Art Institute of Chicago. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY; Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

In the spring of this year, Oslo’s Munch Museum contrasted its Munch exhibit with the works of the 20th-century photography legend Robert Mapplethorpe. This autumn, however, the iconic Norwegian painter’s works will be sharing the stage with one of the founding fathers of pop art – Jasper Johns.

Born in 1930, Johns rose to the top of the American art scene in the second half of the 1950s. The most recognizable symbols used in his work were the American flag, targets, numbers, and letters. Johns painted in the abstract expressionist style which dominated American art in the 1940s to 50s, and at the same time as Robert Rauschenberg, he initiated the US pop art movement.

25 years after first coming into contact with the works of Munch at New York’s MoMA in 1950, Johns’ works began exhibiting references to motifs and themes characteristic of Munch’s works – love, fear, sicknesses and death.

Featuring 130 works of photography, prints, painting and drawing, in this current exhibition we see deeper attempts at revealing the impact that Munch had on Johns’ body of work. It is one of the largest presentations of Johns’ work to ever be held in Scandinavia.


Martin Bigum
ARKEN, Ishøj
September 3, 2016 - January 15, 2017

Martin Bigum

“For me, an artwork is nothing without inspiration – and nothing without the viewer. It is in the mind of the viewer that my work becomes complete,” Danish artist Martin Bigum once said.

The exhibition at ARKEN is about the art that could be found (or that which couldn’t be found) in the southern part of Copenhagen in the 1970s – which is where the artist and great orator, Bigum, grew up.  The exhibition is about everything that drew Bigum towards art since childhood – what inspired him, and what decidedly did not. Many of the works in this exhibition have been loaned out by various international collections, meaning that as a whole, they are available for viewing by the Danish public for the very first time. Also on view are Bigum’s latest works from his series “The Sea (Havet)”.

Louisiana on Paper | Picasso before Picasso
Louisiana Museum Of Modern Art, Humlebæk
Through September 11, 2016

This time, it’s Picasso’s turn at the “Louisiana on Paper” series of exhibitions. The indisputable genius once said that already by age 14, he could draw like the Renaissance Grand Master, Raphael. And he wasn’t lying; in maturity as in his early youth, Picasso had an unbelievable ability to observe people and life – in all of its varying shades. Incredible empathy.

The 28 works on view at the Louisiana are on loan from the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.

Robert Mapplethorpe: On The Edge
ARoS, Aarhus
Through October 30, 2016

Robert Mapplethorpe. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1976. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation 

Through October 30, ARoS is showing a unique exhibition of photographs by the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Read in the Archive: Getting to know Robert Mapplethorpe | When I Work, and In My Art, I Hold Hands With God 

The exhibition features portraits of Mapplethorpe himself, of celebrated people from the scene of New York in the 1970s and 80s, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andy Warhol, and Louise Bourgeois, as well as the rock icon Patti Smith – Mapplethorpe’s muse and soul mate.

ARoS Focus/New Nordic: The Icelandic Love Corporation
ARoS, Aarhus
October 2016 - January 2017

For several years, the Icelandic artists’ community known as The Icelandic Love Corporation has been creating works of art with one another, as well as in collaboration with others, such as the singer Bjørk. Their colorful artistic practice blends almost all conceivable artistic media in quirky combinations, thereby creating performances and installations that address important issues. Their art is characterized by irony, humor, and soberness. The Icelandic Love Corporation is a refreshing example of political art confronting the seriousness of the art world. They break down the barriers between theater and performance, and create art that questions gender roles, overproduction, and sexuality.

Joana Vasconcelos: Textures of Life
ARoS, Aarhus
October 14, 2016 - February 19, 2017

Joana Vasconcelos. Valquíria Enxoval, 2009

Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos (1971) is currently one of the most spirited women artists on the international contemporary art scene. In 2012 she presented an impressive array of her works at the Palace of Versailles, and in 2013 she represented Portugal at the 55th Venice Art Biennale, where, in spite of the financial difficulties of her country’s national pavilion, she shipped the pavilion – by ferry – from Lisbon to Venice herself.

This autumn, the largest piece of her Valkyrie series will debut at the ARoS museum. The 50-meter-long compilation of textiles, “Valkyrire Rán”, will spread out along the museum’s eight floors, thereby becoming the largest single unit of the museum’s permanent collection.

Grayson Perry: Hold Your Beliefs Lightly
ARoS, Aarhus
Through September 11, 2016

Grayson Perry. The Vanity of Small Differences, The Upper Class at Bay, 2012. N. Sargent Foundation, courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London

Grayson Perry, the eccentric winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, mostly works with ceramics and weaving – allegedly traditional, seemingly boring applied arts – yet through them, he unravels a string of provocative themes. He is possibly best known as “the potter in drag”. At first glance, his vases appear to be traditional pottery, but a closer look reveals provoking statements, motifs from the “gutter press”, and rude pictures. The exhibition also features Perry’s huge woven tapestries. They relate stories collected by the artist on his research trips in connection with the making of a series of prizewinning TV-programs. 


Amedeo Modigliani
Ateneum, Helsinki
October 28, 2016 - February 5, 2017

Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait of the Artist Léopold Survage, 1918. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

The elongated forms and mask-like faces in the paintings of Italian painter Amedo Modigliani (1884-1920) have made more than a few overly-competitive art collectors perhaps lose a few marbles. In an auction at New York’s Christie’s last autumn, the Chinese collector Liu Yiqian acquired the painting “Nu Couché” (1917-1918) for 170.4 million dollars. With this sale, “Nu Couché” becomes the second-most-expensive artwork ever sold, close on the heels of Pablo Picasso’s painting “Les femmes d’Alger”. In the work in question, a naked brunette lounges on a red couch with a blue cushion, but at the Ateneum exhibition – the largest-ever showing of Modigliani’s work in the Nordic countries – other works will be featured, especially paintings with women at their focus. These works have powerfully influenced the development of the worlds of visual arts and fashion.

Yayoi Kusama + Helsinki + summer 2016
HAM, Helsinki
Through October 9, 2016

Yayoi Kusama. Narcissus Garden, 2016. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: HAM / Maija Toivanen

Many things are not as they might initially seem, and this is particularly true at Helsinki’s Esplanadi Park, where 20 tree trunks have been wrapped in a red-and-white polka dot fabric. The colorful installation by famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama reminds one of psychedelic fly agaric mushrooms, and will be on display until the month of October. Born in 1929, Kusama is an extravagant contemporary artist and has never hidden the fact that art is a way for her to combat her own inner demons.

“I transform my hallucinations and obsessions into sculptures and paintings,” she says. After experiencing psychiatric problems, Kusama voluntarily admitted herself to a mental hospital in Tokyo in 1977, which is where she has lived ever since, passionately pursuing her artistic endeavors. Her trademark is polka dots, which she applies in all colors through various media. According to Kusama, individual people, the Earth, the Sun and the Moon are each just small dots in the vast expanse of space, and together they all make up the universe. Her own life is also like an insignificant dot, lost among many thousands of others.

Another installation by Kusama is made of 1,000 mirror-surfaced steel spheres, and can be viewed in the Palm Room of Helsinki’s Winter Garden (Talvipuutarha) until September 4. Symbolically named “The Narcissus Garden”, it is devoted to the Greek mythological youth who fell in love with his own reflection – and to countless other individuals who have been obsessed with their self-image over the generations. The work was first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1966, and has continued to be displayed around the world in modified versions.

Both of Kusama’s temporary installations in the Finnish capital are a prelude to a comprehensive retrospective of her works, which will be displayed at the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) in October. 


Yayoi Kusama: In Infinity
Moderna Museet and ArkDes, Stockholm
Through September 11, 2016

Through September 11, Stockholm’s Moderna Museet and ArkDes are featuring Kusama in a retrospective exhibition covering her oeuvre from early nature studies to installations that suspend time and space.;

Tony Oursler
Magasin III, Stockholm
September 16 - December 11, 2016

Tony Oursler. “IDE…”, 2015. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

In the art of Tony Oursler (who is often called “the Picasso of video art”), the preeminent “material” used is the human face. In his numerous video artworks, projections, sculptural objects and installations, the face appears without hair and ears, removed from the rest of the body as much as possible in order to better reveal its expressions, nuances, and psychological weight. As Oursler says, the face is like a link between the body and the mind, between the physical and spiritual sides of the personality, and a dynamic reflection of all o these elements. For a while now, Oursler’s work has been focusing on the ever-increasing widespread use of data tracking and monitoring programs, especially those that deal with facial recognition. He creates his own brand of digital portraits in which we can see ourselves through the lens of technology. Oursler’s 4D film, “Imponderable” (2015-2016), tells the story of technological progress intersecting with occult phenomena over the past two centuries. The film is shown in a theater outfitted with various sensory effects, including the use of “Pepper Ghost” – an old-fashioned illusion technique used in magic shows and theatrical performances to make objects and people appear to float, pass through each other, and fade in and out. Also on view will be the artist’s well-known open-air piece, “The Influence Machine”.