NOBA Nordic Baltic contemporary art platform

Louisiana's major spring exhibition is the first ever comprehensive presentation of the bronzes of Per Kirkeby. Monumental and powerful, it unfolds as an almost epic tale about creative struggle, downfall, mythology, and artistic redemption.

Per Kirkeby (1938-2018) is one of the truly great, international Danish artists, having exhibited at museums all over the world. He is also a keyfigure in Louisiana’s collection, which features works from his earliest beginnings to the very last years of his life. This exhibition allows for Kirkeby’s bronze sculptures to take the centre stage, focusing on the artist’s work with figure and space that also occupied his painting in the early 1980s.

While the bronzes have often played a supporting role in shows of his work, this exhibition will present a majority of Kirkeby’s sculptures, sometimes in interaction with individual paintings and drawings, while spotlighting his personal affinities with old masters – Rodin, Giacometti and others – that so typified the intellectual range of his outlook.

The exhibition takes up the museum’s entire West Wing. It is curated by Louisiana’s director, Poul Erik Tøjner, who has written extensively on the Danish artist and previously curated two important Kirkeby shows at Louisiana.

The exhibition has received generous support from Beckett-Fonden.


Per Kirkeby – Bronze has the ambition of unfolding the artist’s sculptural works as an independent practice and at the same time showing the constant interaction between image and sculpture in his mature work.  The exhibition falls into a number of chapters that alternate between intense, compact statements and rooms of a more monumental calm, where each work can become the object of experience and reflection.

At first we are able to witness how the bronze sculpture enters Kirkeby’s world during a period of artistic crisis in his painting. This is also a time, where he is deeply impressed and inspired by the work of Auguste Rodin. We are in the first half of the eighties, and Kirkeby is soon busy with plaster and bronze; the motifs are body fragments such as heads and arms. We follow these motifs as they develop and evolve still closer to the forms of nature – a torso e.g. looking very much like a tree trunk.

From here on Kirkeby embarks on the large formats – monumental and heavy sculptures which would normally stand beneath the open sky, but now loom large in the West Wing. The pictorial world is mythological – inspired by (the often ultimately tragic) heroes of antiquity: Hercules, Laocoön and Jason.

One section brings together some of the artists – Giacometti, Jorn, Leroy and more – whose works are reflected in Kirkeby’s, another has been devoted to Kirkeby’s reliefs for the Opera in Copenhagen. Shown here in the black version, preferred by the artist himsel, these reliefs are supplemented by sketches and the two large paintings that Kirkeby added to the overall motif cycle.

The last two galleries in the exhibition focus on Kirkeby’s subjects and his models. Both can be seen as a kind of reflection of the formal language, the whole inventory of emblems and symbols that permeates all of Kirkeby’s work.

Gallery name: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Address: Gl. Strandvej 13 3050 Humlebæk, Copenhagen

Opening hours: Tue-Fri 11:00 - 22:00, Sat-Sun 11:00 - 18:00

Open: 21.02.2020 - 06.12.2020