1 December

Which were the best exhibitions on Nordic soil in 2020? Curator Charlotte Sprogøe from Copenhagen lists her favourites.

Martin Wong, Untitled (Popeye), year unknown. Foto: Nick Ash.

Danh Vo Presents, The Nivaagaard Collection, Nivå

In one small gallery room in the old part of The Nivaagaard Collection, Danh Vo presented the most intimate, aesthetic, and political exhibition of the year. Featuring works such as Martin Wong’s tumescent Popeye, Carol Rama’s La Dorina(1940) in bed with a snake, Paul Thek’s Toward an Abstract Icon and Peter Hujar’s 1973 photograph of dying transgender icon Candy Darling, Vo’s exhibition introduced a cast of characters that is – in Denmark, at least – woefully underrepresented, while also engaging in a complex, conceptual, and direct depiction of spirituality, death, and vitality. The link between abstract and Catholic icons, and between personal and universal events, lent the exhibition ethos and epic scope. Vo’s artistic practice has a fundamentally curatorial outlook, and his presence as a curator is a rare and exquisite experience.

Ghosthouse, performance still: Vaquera, Heart Dress, 2019 performed by Magdalena Mitterhofer; sculptures by Dorota Gaweda & Eglé Kulbokaite, Hexanol IV-V, 2020; Aske Høier Olsen, 50 Car Accidents, 2020, performance. Photo: Malle Madsen.

Ghosthouse, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen. Curated by Anna Weile Kjær

In Ghosthouse, a forbidden dream entertained by many curators – of controlling the visitor’s gaze – was finally realised. Here, guests were locked in place in one of Rikard Thambert’s carriages as part of a performance choreographed by Aske Høier Olsen. Carried through a range of “abandoned amusement park” scenarios created by Esben Weile Kjær, Adam Christensen, Dorota Gawęda & Eglė Kulbokaitė, and others, visitors were carefully positioned at exactly the angle from which the works were to be viewed. Employing what Juliane Rebentisch calls “aesthetic vampirism,” various beings of the underworld were portrayed with a mixture of affect and lifelessness. Weile Kjær’s curation not only managed to create a consistent queer-death-cabaret sensibility, but also brought multiple levels into play with works that interacted and interlocked, uniting décor, installation art, and performance in a uniform whole. 

YEARS, I Don’t Want to Live. I Don’t Want to Die, 2018. Installation view, Statens Museum for Kunst, København. Photo: SMK / Frida Gregersen.

New Danish Art, the New Carlsberg Foundation’s million-kroner donation to the National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen

By funding the National Gallery of Denmark’s (SMK) acquisition of no less than 104 works of art by sixty-one artists, the New Carlsberg Foundation clearly won the title of contemporary art’s main supporter in 2020. With this gesture, SMK received a wealth of significant works that will not only enrich the exhibitions of the future, but also introduce new life, topicality, and experimentation to the museum right now. Given that SMK recently decided to abolish one of the nation’s most distinctive platforms for contemporary art, X-rummet, this overwhelming presentation of art, ranging from Benedicte Bjerre, Years, and Simon Dybbroe Møller to Nanna Starck, sends a very positive signal regarding contemporary art’s continued presence at the museum.

– Charlotte Sprogøe is a curator and PhD fellow studying curatorial practices at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, working on the project ‘Exhibition as Psycho Aesthetic Form and Backdrop as Character’ and curating a series of exhibitions about affect and emotional states.

For this year’s contributions to Kunstkritikk’s Advent Calendar, see here.