At the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Art is on the Outside

Surreal sculptures and lunch by the sea in Copenhagen.  
louisiana museum of modern art copenhagen
The museum has an easy relationship with nature. Its sprawling grounds overlook the sapphire strait between Denmark and Sweden, and also include a lake, with enough space to amble around and admire the nearly 60 sculptures outdoors (right). Even inside the Giacometti Gallery (left), large, glass windows frame the sculptures against nature's canvas. Photos: Leonardo Pilara/Flickr/Creative Commons (People); Oliver Bruchez/Flickr/Creative Commons (Outdoor) (bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

I am in a dark, closet-sized room just big enough for four people. It takes a few seconds to orient myself to its darkness, but eventually I see that the space is entirely clad in mirrors, from floor to ceiling. There are lamps hanging at various lengths, softly blinking in different colours and rhythms. We are awash in pinks, then greens and blues. The sight is so surreal—like being caught in the glow of fireflies—that no one says a word. In silence, we absorb Yayoi Kusama’s enigmatic artwork, “Gleaming Lights of the Souls” (video below) until a white door opens and we are ushered back into corridor of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

The museum, filled with intriguing works of modernist and contemporary art, is a half-hour train ride from Copenhagen’s city centre, and a world away from its bustle. Our walk from the train station skirts the charming seaside suburb of Humlebæk where wide, tree-lined paths are punctuated by large, quiet houses. The museum’s entrance is marked by an abstract sculpture of a reclining figure, with full-bodied curves that bring to mind the anatomy of a woman and of a cavern. It is one of the seminal works of British artist Henry Moore, and a primer for what’s to come.

But first, lunch at the café. We grab delicious ginger lemonades, a plate of salad and grilled meat from the buffet, and take a table outside. The art spills out from the museum in the form of sculptures that dot its large grounds. There are geometric sculptures that move with the breeze, figures that look like an extraterrestrial and a tortoise, and another gigantic Henry Moore piece. There is a restfulness and tranquillity here, aided by the views of rustling trees and untrammelled sea, that gives the sense of art existing harmoniously with nature.

A glimpse of Yayoi Kusama’s “Gleaming Light of the Souls”. 

Louisiana was founded by Knud W. Jensen in 1958 to showcase Danish modern art, but soon expanded its focus to include international art in the country, particularly sculpture and paintings. It’s bristling with delights—over 3,000 artworks in its permanent collection and a dozen rotating exhibitions every year.

Many, like Yayoi Kusama’s piece, make us stop in our tracks. Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s tall, skinny, compressed human sculptures, hands by their side with gazes tight, look frozen in time. There are Pablo Picasso’s early drawings, American pop artist Rob Lichtenstein’s free-flowing impression of Louisiana’s landscape, and Indian artist Dayanita Singh’s archival photographs. There are lighter works too: From a first-floor room overlooking the ocean, a springboard extends outside the glass-panelled window, teasing us with potential.

We peek in on parents and kids making art together in the multi-storeyed Children’s Wing, surrounded by colourful pots of paint in a bright, cheery room. It’s this warm, welcoming air that makes the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art particularly worth revisiting. In addition to its art collection, the museum also conducts concerts and literary events, and is a gorgeous and unpretentious refuge for lovers of art.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen

The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art has a collection that reads like a who’s who of modern artists post 1945—Pablo Picasso, Alexander Caulder, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono. But the museum is especially beloved for its welcoming, unpretentious atmosphere. Photo: Poul Buchard

On our way out, my thoughts are still immersed in another work: Jacob Kierkegaard’s Isfald. Like Yayoi Kusama’s work, this too is in a room, one that’s so dark that I have to move like a crab to avoid bumping into strangers. There are no visuals here, just dim green light that feels like nature’s womb, and sounds: the crackle and dull roar of creaking icebergs in Greenland. I think of climate change and melting glaciers, but the boom of icebergs is also comforting. It exudes a powerful quietness, able to transport me in time and space to a place of stillness.

The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is 40km/35min by train and road from Copenhagen, and a 15-minute walk from Humlebæk metro station. Entry, 115DKK (₹1,153) for adults, free for children. Open from 11am; closing time varies. Closed on most Mondays. More details here.

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    Saumya Ancheri is Assistant Web Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves places by the sea, and travels to shift her own boundaries. She tweets as @Saumya_Ancheri.

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