A 30.000 pies por viajeros para viajeros

Art In the Raw, Just Half an Hour from Copenhagen

A museum in Denmark named after an American state? This is not the only fetching fact about Louisiana. Located in the small town of Humlebæk, some 35 kilometres north of Copenhagen, Louisiana draws thousands of visitors each year to its alluring interior and exterior. Its contemporary art collection is truly extraordinary, as is – perhaps even to a greater degree – its siting, opposite the cold waters separating Denmark from Sweden, nestling in a vast area of parkland, trees and cliffs. Likewise its architectural design, seamlessly integrated into its surroundings.

The museum was founded in 1958 by the Danish businessman and philanthropist, Knud W. Jensen, who commissioned the first stage of the project to the architects Vilhelm Wohlert and JørgenBo. Oddly enough, the museum is not actually named after the American state, but on account of a coincidence – the previous owner of the land happened to marry three times, and each time his wife was named Louise! As the museum’s private collection is far larger than what can be displayed, many of the constituent works are loaned from one place to another. The building houses works by Lucien Freud, David Hockney, Asger Jorn (one of Denmark’s leading 20th-century artists), the Spaniard, Juan Muñoz, photographers such as the German, Thomas Demand, and the New Yorker, Cindy Sherman. And, what is likely the jewel in the crown – a room where a painting by Francis Bacon, and one of the most striking sculptures by Alberto Giacometti, are placed face to face, as if in the throes of an ongoing dialogue. In the garden we find several weighty sculptures, including one by Alexander Calder and another by Joan Miró – set just five metres apart and permanently chaperoned by the sea in the background – in addition to works by Louise Bourgeois and Max Ernst, among many others. 

You have just until the end of January – be quick! – to see a long-distance exhibition hosted by the museum, as well as an installation which raises eyebrows. The exhibition reviews the extensive, colourist and provocative work of the multi-disciplinary Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama (phallic sculptures, rooms painted in polka dots, rent garments and other marvels). The installation is a huge sculpture by the Canadian, David Altmejd, called The Flux and the Puddle, which takes up a whole room and is well nigh impossible to fathom – it involves a visceral, high-impact blend of methacrylate, food, taxidermy, strings and mirrors.

Louisiana is easy to reach from Copenhagen – at the Central Station in the capital, you take a Helsingor-bound train and get off at Humlebæk. That’s all. On your return, you are urged to explore the district of Vesterbro, adjoining the aforementioned Central Station. Once the haunts of prostitutes and crooks, it is now one of the most exciting and bustling city quarters, brimming with galleries, stores, cafés and restaurants. Make sure you stop off at Bang & Jensen, in Istedgade, which is open all day. Their lentil soup with curry and cilantro comes highly recommended, and you can also play some pinball and Arkanoid. Another landmark worth seeing is the so-called Meatpacking District, the former fish and meat market reconditioned as one of Copenhagen’s cool areas, where you can choose from among a host of appetising culinary offerings. For lovers of music and vinyl, the best spot in Vesterbro is undoubtedly Sort Kaffe & Vinyl, a small record shop cum bar. Or vice versa – a café with records. Its claim to fame is a small but carefully curated selection of folk, jazz, electronic, exotic and experimental music. For sleeping over and putting away a hearty breakfast the next morning, here are two recommendations in the same district: Bertrams Guldsmeden (very near Værnedamsvej, one of the prettiest streets in the city), and the Avenue Hotel, which has a beautiful patio if you happen to be there in spring or summer.

While the city itself is well worth the visit, the chance to see Louisiana and even spend some hours in Vesterbro makes this a well nigh compulsory trip. Why wait to book your flight to Copenhagen?


Text by Carles Novellas for ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Carles Novellas and Anna Higueras

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