Contemporary art faces divided feedback

 

A new centre for international installation art opened in Copenhagen from the 25th of August 2016 to the end of 2017, getting different views from diversified visitor groups. Some think they need more assistance to get the meaning of the artworks while others believe the possibility of personal understanding is the beauty of art.

By Jiaxin He (Ellen) and Peter Skovbjerg Jensen

Located on Papirøen in the Copenhagen Inner Harbour, Copenhagen Contemporary (CC) is a new centre for international installation art. (Photo: Jiaxin He)

Located on Papirøen in the Copenhagen Inner Harbour, Copenhagen Contemporary (CC) is a new centre for international installation art. (Photo: Jiaxin He)

Copenhagen Contemporary (CC), an independent institution, started a large exhibition programme on Papirøen, located in the Copenhagen Inner Harbour, during which works from several world’s best-known artists like the cult artist Bruce Nauman, the father of installation art, are shown to the public.

 

CC has been created as a pilot project that shows big installation art, a new art that is demanding both space wise and also technically.

Among the art works is for example an exhibition of Ragnar Kjartansson’s Scenes from Western Culture which is several large screens showing everyday scenes in daily life.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s Scenes from Western Culture consists of nine screens and each shows a different daily environment.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s Scenes from Western Culture consists of nine screens and each shows a different daily environment. (Photo: Peter Skovbjerg Jensen)

“People are very surprised. They will walk in, and they will be so surprised that we have a space like this in Denmark,” says Anna Gregersen, assistant curator at CC.

Though this exhibition is rather new, CC has already got the attention of the public – listed among the “Top 5 Places to Visit in Copenhagen” on VisitCopenhagen – and received feedbacks from different parties at the same time.

“We’ve got great reviews from the Danish newspapers, and in general people think it’s really beautiful to see this kind of art exhibited in Denmark, where there was no room for it before,” says Anna.

Complicated art

Not all the visitors, however, can easily appreciate the artworks. Susanne Mathieseu and Inge Lis Jørgensen both visited the art centre, but found the art hard to follow.

“I really gave it some of my time and tried to look at it, but it’s difficult,” says Inge Lis Jørgensen after reading the wall text about the artist and artworks. She thinks the information provided on the wall is good, but “you still had to ‘work’ a lot, just to make a bit of sense out of it.”

Inge feels that the artworks are “closed to themselves” but not open for the public to get closer or understand them.

Staff from CC think they have tried to communicate the art pieces in a very informal language on the wall texts so the audience can better understand the exhibition.

“But of course we can try different concepts in how to communicate the artworks. We can for instance make events where people who don’t normally come and see contemporary art are guided through our exhibitions and art pieces in another way,” says Anna Gregersen.

A personal experience

Anna Gregersen does on the other hand emphasize that the visitors of Copenhagen Contemporary don’t necessarily need to understand the artist’s specific intentions with the art works to appreciate the art.

Video: New contemporary art centre in Copenhagen. Know more about Copenhagen Contemporary(click here).

This is an opinion shared by Malene Vest Hansen, chairman of the committee of art history at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies in Denmark.

“If you meet contemporary art with an open mind, and do not expect art to give specific answers, then you can, if not understand, at least appreciate contemporary art,” Malene Vest Hansen writes in an email. She agrees that the more time and attention spent with contemporary art, the more the audience can understand.

Unlike other art centres and museums in Denmark, in Anna’s opinion, CC is not supposed to be really calm and formal, but rather informal and fun. It should be a place where all kinds of people of all ages can visit and have fun with art.

Susanne Mathieseu, who came to the art centre and also had difficulty understanding the works, did not end her visit with disappointment.

“I would go again, and tell me friends about it, even though I didn’t understand much of it,” Susanne Mathieseu says.

Anna Gregersen actually sees it as one of the qualities of the exhibition, that you don’t have to necessarily understand it to appreciate it.

“I think a beautiful thing about art is that people can come and be challenged, and not necessarily know what it is about. But if they still feel moved, even if they don’t understand the bigger meaning of it, it’s about activating yourself, and believing your own intuition and feelings,” says Anna Gregersen

CC has rented four large halls totaling 3,400 square meters alongside Copenhagen Street food until the 31st of December 2017.

 

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This short story is written for an audience in Hong Kong and could be published in the news section of www.scmp.com/frontpage/international.