Last Saturday (a very cold, grey day that did not inspire one to spend more time than necessary outside) my family decided to visit Kunsten, Aalborg’s modern art museum. I had visited before with my Danish class during a Michael Kvium exhibit but it was the first time for my husband and children. We were curious about Strid: Tegner og fortæller (Strid: Draw and tell), an exhibit of the work of Jakob Martin Strid, who is a Danish political cartoonist and children’s book author and illustrator…
After paying our entrance fee (DKK75 per adult; free for children under 18), we were pleasantly surprised to hear the sound of a lute as we entered the main hall; unbeknownst to us, the monthly Lunch Concert was taking place that day. The concert venue – chairs set up in an open space to the right of the hall’s center – presented both a challenge and a benefit; we could enjoy the classical pieces played by Morten Dyrberg as we toured the exhibits but we had to reign in our girls, whose impulse to run around and laugh could have proved a major distraction for performer and audience alike.
So with music playing in the background, we made our way to the Strid exhibit. The exhibit space was light and airy and a life-sized model of a ‘pear room’ (that must feature in one of his children’s books – I must admit that I’m not familiar with his work) was positioned in the center. The exhibit is aimed at school-aged children (who receive a little booklet with questions they have to answer as they go through) as well as adults, although there was a little table in one corner stocked with markers and paper on which smaller children could color and draw. Our elder daughter enjoyed doing this for a while; her sister preferred to run off with the markers and use them on herself.
A room off to the side of the exhibit was set up for group art appreciation/education classes (it’s called the cinema, however, so I imagine this was a temporary arrangement.) It was empty when we entered and appeared to mimic the style of a concurrent exhibit, Just Like Home by Danish artist Julie Nord. This exhibit, on the other side of the museum, was well designed to feature and highlight the beautiful and ethereal yet eerie drawings and watercolors that Nord has produced. With matching red carpet and wallpaper that made the room’s borders seamless, one section of the exhibit was closed off by red velvet drapes and lit by an enormous chandelier. Another – the ‘children’s room’ – housed a black rocking horse and child-sized table and chairs, which contrasted starkly with the light blue wallpaper and paintings in wood frames that hung on the walls.
Denmark is a family and child-friendly country. So even as our children used the vast and welcoming space the museum offers to burn off some of their seemingly boundless energy (after the concert had ended!), we were not worried about them being scolded or told off. They also enjoyed the Nord exhibit red room, lying on the red carpet and looking up at the chandelier. It felt quite cozy, actually. Knowing our girls have short attention spans, we had planned a short visit. In total, we probably spent 75 minutes at the museum, which was enough to view the two featured exhibits while keeping an eye on the girls. I would plan more time to see all the museum has to offer, however.
We did not make it to the café on the lower level of the museum but I believe it’s quite a popular place to share a coffee or meal, especially during the warmer months of the year when you can sit outside and enjoy the sculpture garden, which features the work of several sculptors. The garden also features a ‘water pavilion’ (to open for the season on 13 April this year), where children can run through a fountain and enjoy free ice cream.
More about the museum
Kunsten opened in 1972. The building was designed by Elissa and Alvar Aalto in partnership with Jean-Jacques Baruël. The feel of the museum is light and spacious; a number of skylights illuminate the galleries. Exhibits of different sizes can be easily accommodated thanks to moveable walls, which allow for great flexibility. The museum houses about 3500 pieces of art from 1900 on, with a focus on Danish modernism, CoBrA and the Paris school. The permanent collection includes works by Danish artists and international pieces chosen due to their contact with Danish art, according to the museum’s brochure.
Please note: Kunsten is closed to the public as of today, 1 June, 2014 for renovations. It will open again in autumn 2015. As a result, the museum’s exhibits, artwork, and activities will be moved temporarily to different locations throughout Aalborg and Denmark while the improvements are being made. You can follow the museum’s move on their website.
Kong Christians Allé 50
Tel: 99 82 41 00
See map here
Next week’s topic: Learning the Danish language