In 1948, artists formed the European Avant-Garde coalition COBRA (COpenhagen, BRussels, Amsterdam) in response to a growing sense of disconnection from the art world beyond their own county's borders. But since then, with the rise of new experimental spaces like Copenhagen Contemporary designed specially for large-scale installations, an outburst of galleries in the meatpacking district, and new fairs such as CHART and CODE that sprang up in 2016, Copenhagen has become a thriving center for contemporary art—both locally and internationally. And oddly enough, previously conservative institutions like the Royal Danish Academy of Fine arts have played a pivotal role in supporting young vanguard artists both locally and working abroad since the '80s. Here are seven local Copenhagen-based artists to know before your next visit to the city.
(To discover even more great artists from the area, see 10 Nordic Artists You Need To Know.)
Theis Wendt, On-Titled, 2013-15
Although Copenhagen may be one of the world’s greenest cities on earth, artist Theis Wendt insistently reminds us that in our post-humanist dystopian future, nature is losing its sheen of authenticity. Often mimicking real natural materials through uncannily realistic digital printing techniques, Wendt is known best for his landscapes in which ecological disaster and digital reality meet. In almost a contemporary perversion of the legacy of post-minimalist sculptors like Eva Hesse, Wendt’s digital landscapes ask us to question the quickly crumbling barriers between virtual and the “meat” space of three-dimensional reality. Wednt currently lives and works in Copenhagen, and his work can be found at the conceptually orientated gallery, Anderson’s Contemporary in Copenhagen.
Silas Inoue, Knucklesoup (3), 2014
Describing his influences as “yoga, experience economy, team building, commercialized spirituality, and tourism” the young artist Silas Inoue seems to be engaged in more than just any easy critique of globalization. Inoue’s time spent in both Japan and Denmark has infused his work with ambiguous contradictions, whether his preferred medium is performance or “living paintings.” Be it filling life-size martini glasses with lethal mould mites from Singapore or mantis shrimp in aquarium-like paintings, Inoue’s work is both fascinating and eerily unsettling. Inoue currently lives and works in Copenhagen and you can discover his work there at gallery Marie Kirkegaard.
Still from A Question of Silence, 2008
If Cindy Sherman once led the way in challenging conventional gender and identity roles in popular cinema, then Jesper Just could be said to be her male Danish counterpart. Recalling a nostalgic film noir aesthetic, his elaborate film productions only feature characters performing conventional gender roles in order to trouble them. Representing his home country in the 2013 Venice Biennale, Just invited viewers to challenge national identity as well, setting his film in a real-life replica city of Paris located in a Chinese suburb. Although Just’s films can be found at institutions all over the world, you can catch his work locally at Galleri Nicolai Wallner in Copenhagen, where the artist currently resides. (For more on Jesper Just, read our interview with the artist about his 2013 Venice Biennale pavilion.)
Jeppe Hein, Parabola Mirror Labyrinth, 2014
Since 2000, Jeppe Hein has become one of Denmark’s most celebrated contemporary artists. Heppe’s work re-writes the legacy of Minimalism by using the stark aesthetic of conceptualism in the '60s and '70s, and introducing sculptural forms that react to human presence. For Heppe, “sculpture is closely linked with communication.” Take his 2010 Mirror Wall, that although nods to Robert Morris’s Untitled (Mirroir Cubes) (1965-71), actually distorts the viewer’s reflection through vibration, focusing their gaze onto the gallery walls and perceptually dislodging them from any position of stable contemplative viewing. While in Copenhagen make sure to check out his Blue Modified Social Bench in-between the metro stations Kastrup and Den Bla Planet. Hein divides his time between Copenhagen and Berlin, and his work can be found locally in the city at Galeri Nicolai Wallner.
Gudrun Hasle, The plases i cot, 2012
Gudrun Hasle is bringing feminism into dialogue with something its diverse waves have tended to ignore: disability. Diagnosed with dyslexia, Hasle unabashedly expresses herself through misspelled words and sentences that demonstrate how speech, expression, and communication are conventions that we are expected to perform on a daily basis, in addition to our genders. Working with traditional second-wave feminist art materials such as textiles and needlework, Hasle criticizes the exclusionary nature of the movement (which some have condemned for its support of essentialism and predominantly white women figures) by troubling it with her own disabled voice. Her work can be found locally at Galleri Tom Christoffersen in the center of Copenhagen.
Detail of Andreas Albrectsen, Projections (2014)
If conceptualist photographer Douglas Huebler and post-modern painter Gerhard Richter had a love child, artist Andreas Albrectsen would be it. In the spirit of Conceptualist de-skilling of artistic production, Albrectsen re-draws black-and-white photographs found via internet image search, rendering them in a hyper realistic manner on paper—just as Richter once did with his "photo-paintings." However unlike the latter two artists' de-subjective approach, Albrectsen’s insistence on the personal nature of his archived photographs asks new questions about memory, appropriation, and subjective interpretation of the past through representation. Albrectsen currently lives and works in Copenhagen and you can find his work at Galleri Tom Christoffersen in the center of city's center.
Henrik Plenge Jakobsen is a conceptual artist working across a range of mediums including installation, performance, sculpture and public interventions. Infamous for his large installations where fact and fiction are blurred, Jakobsen primarily questions the nature of what French Marxist theorist Guy Debord termed spectacle culture: a culture in which the image becomes the new form of capital. In his 1994 performance/installation The Smashed Parking Ground, Jakobsen placed destroyed vehicles in a public square in order to stage the remains of an imaginary riot. Blurring the boundary between art and life, truth and fiction, the Danish artist’s work continues a radical '60s inspired critique of society’s relation to the predominance of the image in the present. Jakobsen currently lives and works in Copenhagen.