The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is not in fact, in the state of Louisiana, but rather a thirty-minute train ride outside of Copenhagen in Denmark. I was previously unaware of the museum, originally an estate home dubbed the “Louisiana” during the nineteenth century by the owner who had coincidentally married three women named Louise during his lifetime. The estate was later purchased and converted into a Modern Art museum, blending old and new aesthetics as the building presents both ivy lined brick and sleek glass.
I enjoy going to museums I know nothing about. The mystery can often make for a rich museum-going experience. I was first struck by the architectural variety and beauty of the building itself. The façade of the main entrance is covered in ivy but once you enter you’re inside a modern, bright, and expansive gift shop. I’m accustomed to the conspicuous placements of gift shops in museums, but I have never encountered one that sells racks of artsy clothing and cool shoes. After contemplating buying a set of ceramic mugs I have no need for and deciding they wouldn’t travel well in my budget airline sized suitcase anyways, I moved onto the exhibits.
I entered the world of performance artist Marina Abramović* to the sound of recorded machine gun fire. Abromovic has a prolific and often controversial career and the exhibit played well to the strong emotional responses Abromovic has evoked with her art. The Louisiana is exhibiting a large collection of the artist’s work titled The Cleaner until October 2017. The exhibit stretches through multiple rooms and up multiple levels, spanning from Abromovic’s early work such as preparatory sketches, to her more recent work such as The Artist is Present (2012). Drawing, photography, video, audio, live performance, and mixed media made for a highly stimulating experience.
After watching a video of Abromovic cutting a shape of a star into her abdomen and listening to her and former partner Ulay yell rhythmically at one another on film, I stepped into Yayoi Kusama’s installation Gleaming Lights of the Souls. I admire Kusama’s oeuvre and love her style with bright colors, loud polka dots, and hypnotizing lights. Stepping into this small exhibit which entails a small dark room with mirrors on all the walls and water on either side of a narrow platform, felt like stepping into a serene galaxy. Only four people are allowed in at a time, so the crowds as well as sights and sounds of the other exhibit fell away. For a maximum of five minutes you can watch the hundreds of hanging light bulbs change colors from blue, to green, to red; transitioning you gently from cool to warm color schemes.
Once I stepped out of Kusama’s exhibit the Abromovic exhibit resumed, picking up with more of her performance art including the video of her and Ulay’s The Great Wall: Lovers at the Brink which if you haven’t seen watch it here. Two of the three people I went to the museum with do not work in the arts, which is always interesting to see what grabs them and what doesn’t. One friend got queasy watching some of Abromovic’s videos while the other lagged behind us some twenty-minutes because she was so enthralled with Abromovic’s oeuvre and story. Abromovic’s work has this incredible ability to both engage and repel, forcing you to have an emotional response to the content in front of you.
The Louisiana has a fantastically eclectic collection including an impressive room of American Southwest pottery and an extensive permanent exhibit of the works by Danish contemporary artist Tal R. Beyond the building itself is a sprawling sculpture garden with lush grounds that face out towards the water and Sweden in the distance. If you’re in Denmark I recommend making the trip out to the Louisiana, maybe you’ll be drawn to an artist you’ve never heard of before, or buy a pair of locally made trendy shoes-either way it’s worth the trip.
*I could not for the life of me figure out how to insert the c with the accent mark in this entry, forgive me