Louisiana Museum: A day on the Øresund
Authors' note: This is the 13th in a series of blogs about our adventures traveling in Europe in 2019. They will appear here on the fourth Thursday every month, and will eventually be compiled into a book entitled:Taking Chances, or How to See the World Living with Chronic Illness.
Henning One of my favorite places outside of Copenhagen is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It also happened to be one of the places Linda had fallen in love with when she was in Denmark 50 years prior. Louisiana was the first Danish museum dedicated to modern art, architecture, design, photography and film when it opened in 1957.
It is located at an old estate just south of Helsingør, looking out over Øresund Sound towards Sweden, 35 km north of Copenhagen. The name Louisiana derives from the original owner who, in the late 19 th century, had been married to no fewer than three women all named Louise. The original manor house has been expanded in the Scandinavian Modern style above and below ground. The buildings expand north and south of the original building and are joined together underground to form a circle on the estate, with numerous side buildings containing the many exhibition halls.
The sloping lawns of the Louisiana Museum lead to a beautiful vista of the wide Øresund and Sweden.
Louisiana has grown to become a place of relaxation for me. I am a member and whenever I need to relax and spend some time for myself I will drive up there to go for a stroll in the sculpture garden and sit on the terrace outside the café with a cup of coffee and a good book, looking over the sea and the many ships sailing by. Of course, I also enjoy looking at the art there. Some pieces in the permanent collection I have grown up with, literally, while others suddenly will come out of storage and I wonder why they have been tucked away for so long. Apart from the permanent collection there are always changing exhibitions of art, architecture, photos and video installations that are worth viewing.
The fact that there is always something familiar as well as ever changing things to look at is one of the pulls for me when I go to Louisiana. And, I was thrilled that Linda was able to revisit it even though it had changed immensely since she was there in the late 1960s.
Linda My long-awaited revisit to Louisiana fell on a holiday weekend in Denmark. As we drove along the road approaching the museum, clusters of walkers headed in the same direction. (Louisiana is easily accessible by public transport: a 35-minute train ride from Copenhagen and 10-minute walk from the station.) The site, where space seems to expand, easily accommodated the influx.
On my first visit, the galleries hugging the landscape, blurring of the separation of outdoors and indoors as I admired the art, struck me most of all. This time I concentrated on roaming the grounds. The artworks, so at one with their settings, shifted my perspective in surprising, sometimes playful, sometimes breathtaking ways.
I stood on a footbridge spanning a forest glen. Ladies’ underpants and other intimate items hung neatly from lines between the trees. These were not the staff’s—in this case clean—laundry but part of a temporary exhibit by a Swiss artist, Pipiloti Rist’s Open My Glade. Yes, it’s absolutely okay to laugh.
Pipiloti Rist’s Open My Glade. Yes, ladies intimate underthings, hanging on an electric line, are illuminated internally at night.
My eye wandered farther down the glen to two weathered steel plates near the foot of a natural staircase. Artist Richard Serra installed them—The Gate in the Gorge—decades earlier. I’d never been able to warm to Serra’s work in urban or gallery hardscapes, but the Gate was a different story. Approached from either direction it’s evocative. Walking down the staircase, then zig zagging through the gate, darkness gradually becomes light and the wide vista of lawn and the Øresund’s waters extending to Sweden are revealed. The other way you are admitted to the mysteries of the forest, where dusk seems about to fall.
Richard Serra’s The Gate in the Gorge.
On a part of that huge stretch of lawn, closer to the manor house than the sound, lie Alicja Kwade’s 8 Stone Globes Perfectly Round . Walking around them—they are slightly different sizes, but all large—one gets an Alice-in-Wonderland feeling. Are these from an alternate universe of giants where the orbs are mere pebbles? Can a wizard crack one open with the stroke of a wand to reveal a magical creature? For several moments, I’m in the fairy tale books of my childhood.
Alicja Kwade’s 8 Stone Globes Perfectly Round. Marbles for giants?
Travel should be a mind-opening experience and Louisiana certainly is that.
DavidUnlike Henning and Linda, I had never been to the Louisiana Museum before this trip. I heard glowing reports of its beauty and uniqueness from both of them, but really had no preconceived idea of what it looked like or how I would feel about it. I would not have gone there if not for Henning and Linda, and that would have been my loss.
Most museums exhibit sculpture inside white, box-like galleries lit with artificial light. One can admire the artistry, but I’m often left with a rather cold feeling or “so what” response, particularly in regard to modern sculpture. The Louisiana completely reversed that experience for me.
Its natural beauty sitting on a high bluff above the wide Øresund was totally unexpected. Expansive lawns leading down to the water and paths into forest-like walks with intriguing sculpture placed here and there were arresting. I was drawn into the landscape almost hypnotically.
The concept is of a museum without walls or side galleries, mostly enclosed in glass, so the inside was outside. I never felt claustrophobic. And the sculpture could be appreciated in a totally new way, in relation to nature. Sculpted metal and stone seem to blend together with the natural surroundings and offer a new perspective of the artists’ insight and genius. The large Henry Moore figure, Two-Piece Reclining Figure No. 5, laying on its side on the edge of the bluff, offered a natural resting place for museum patrons as well as the sculpture. They were one and the same. Giacometti’s Walking Man seemed at home in a high gallery with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that brought the sylvan beauty of outdoor greens and water into his realm.
Henry Moore’s Two-Piece Reclining Figure No. 5 and friends enjoy a spring afternoon .
Giacometti’s Walking Man in his remarkable inside-out gallery.
As I’ve urged many times before in these blogs, always allow serendipity to seep into your travel plans. In this case, a very pleasant and stimulating day changed how I view modern sculpture. Life can continue to pleasantly surprise and entertain if you open yourself to new experiences. Chronic illness never need be a complete impediment to personal enjoyment and growth.