Copenhagen Art Update

While in Copenhagen to pick up a new donation to The Niland Collection. I take the opportunity to check out this lively city’s art scene.

My guide for the morning is Hannah Heilmann, a native Copenhagener, who kindly opens an exhibition in an artist-run gallery she’s work with just for me. The exhibition space is in a newly built, though not very attractive, shopping centre in the heart of the laid back area of Vesterbro. Called the Toves Galleri Vesterbro Contemporary Workout Space because the unit was initially used a gym, it’s a space where artists can work in an experimental way and make and exhibit work collectively or individually.

From there we head to New Carlsberg and a complex devoted to contemporary art. Housed in a disused garage on the site of the old Carlsberg brewery, artist run spaces and commercial galleries enjoy subsidised rent from the owners of the site. At IMO Projects, a new artist-led gallery space, gallerist Toke Lykkeberg gives me a tour of their current exhibition by Danish collective A Kassen. The centerpiece of the exhibition is an enormous street lamp which looks like it has literally been felled like a tree and dragged into the gallery. Toke tells me that this show is actually pretty tame for A Kassen – a previous exhibition involved a light aircraft and removing the roof from a gallery in collaboration with an architect!

In addition to their main gallery, IMO have a fascinating second space called Phonebox. The space is actually that – a disused phonebox, so small that only one person can experience the work shown there at any given time. Phonebox is currently showing a mixed media piece by Christian Jeppsson exploring the little know world of Phreaking, an early form of hacking named after the words phone and freak. Toke tells me that Phonebox has been used for audio and text works so far but they plan to present film and other media in the future. Phonebox certainly proves that enormous spaces aren’t vital to presenting interesting and thought-provoking art projects.

Later I head over to the galleries of the up market area of Bredgade Street, where David Risley talks me through the current show at his own gallery. He’s presenting an amazing English artist called Robert McNally whose stunningly detailed, large-scale drawings pull me in to a darkly surreal world. The title of the show Shotgun in’t mouth, brains on’t wall, initially suggests a suicidal tendency, but what McNally is really getting at here is the way in which artists have to ransack their imaginations as the clock ticks ever closer to their next exhibition opening. The resulting work is both compelling and technically astounding.

Sadly my next stop is the airport and as I head for home I’m wishing for just a bit more time to explore the vibrant galleries and alternative spaces of this cool city.