COPENHAGEN, DENMARK.- Statens Museum for Kunst presents Highlights, from March 18, 2005 until Autumn 2006. A rich selection of seven hundred years of art from the permanent collections are presented in a challenging exhibition in the white museum building.
A highlight usually marks a high or projecting point. As a commercial method, it focuses exclusively on the most eye-catching feature of a product, obscuring any mediocrities that may accompany it. Conversely, however, highlighting can also serve to shed light on something that has hitherto been in the shade and which deserves greater attention. The starting point of the "Highlight" exhibition at Statens Museum for Kunst was the dual ambition of showing the very best pieces of the collection and to serve as an eyeopener, calling attention to overlooked qualities of the museum collections. Essential masterpieces by artists such as Mantegna, Dürer, Tizian, El Greco and Rubens to Abildgaard, Eckersberg and Hammershøi and further on to Matisse, Braque, Nolde, Jorn and Kirkeby are presented alongside works that have the potential to occupy truly important positions within art history and the collections, as well as other works that are outstanding in their own right, but which have as yet lived lives of relative obscurity.
Retro - "Highlights" is a walk through art history from the early Renaissance up to the present day. The exhibition marks a break with the display principles of Modernism, harking back instead to earlier salon displays, similar to what audiences met when the museum first opened its doors in 1896. More than 1000 works hang from wall to ceiling in dense sequences, but this time the setting and the content of the works are very different. This is the first time that the full range of the museum collections are presented in the new building's light and spacious rooms. Here, the older art sheds a completely different kind of light, and the more recent works are formed to communicate with – and against – each other to a greater extent than ever before.
... and experiment - An overwhelming wealth of images meets the eye. The white building's large rooms and clean surfaces has made it possible to relate the history of Danish and European art in true widescreen style. The exhibition provides an overview, unfolding the general lines of Western art, giving audiences free reins to immerse themselves more deeply, comparing details at close quarters. In addition to the more obvious combinations of artists and works, the museum curators have also tried out a number of unorthodox juxtapositions that have seemed unthinkable before, but which now bring new, interesting correlations and clashes to light.
Narratives chronological and crisscrossing - "Highlights" is, generally speaking, arranged chronologically, beginning with the older foreign art and concluding with contemporary art. Through specific works, the exhibition follows a wide range of styles and genres even as a plethora of narratives large and small unfold within the more general overview.
The older international art extends of a total of four rooms, one of which addresses the early Italian Renaissance with masterpieces by e.g. Lorenzetti, Lippi and Mantegna. The two largest rooms are dedicated to special focus areas within the museum collections: works from the early Dutch Golden Age of Art and the Baroque. The former is presented in a display that relates the story of the Netherlands's heyday in the 17th century, of the merchant nation's riches, but also of its contrasts and eventual downfall as an empire. The Baroque room brings together the classicist stringency and sophistication of Italian and French masters such as Poussin and Tintoretto with the far more flamboyant and unrestrained style of Flemish painters such as Rubens and Jacob Jordaens.
The large room of older Danish art surveys the epoch-making chapters in the history of Danish art from around 1750 through the Golden Age to the dawn of modernism at the threshold of the 20th century. 150 years of Danish art are presented in a single, unbroken sequence, calling special attention to genres such as figure painting, landscapes, and self-portraits, thereby showcasing continuity and radical departures from Abildgaard to Willumsen.
Natural high points of the museum collections, paintings by Nolde and Matisse mark the transition to modernism, ushering in the multiplicity and the ceaseless new departures that reached their full fruition in subsequent generations of artists, including figures such as Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, and Gromaire. In continuation of European modernist art, Danish and Scandinavian modernism is presented in a large room of its own. Here we follow developments from the early avant-garde of the 1910s through abstract-concrete art in e.g. Richard Mortensen, further on to the Cobra artists unbridled expressivity and concluded by Wilhelm Freddie's unique universe.
Contemporary art is presented with a concentrate of Danish art from recent decades. Here, the works have been selected with the objective of establishing an alternative to the conventional narrative that would have recent Danish art follow two separate paths: a cool, intellectual formalism and a more warm-blooded, expressive idiom. Taking artists such as Per Kirkeby as the point of departure, the display points to a greater degree of flexibility where the boundaries between conceptualism and gestures become nuanced rather than bones of contention.
Last, but not least, the exhibition presents a choice selection of works from The Collection of Prints and Drawings in two rooms. The first of these rooms showcases drawings and prints from the mid-1400s onwards, from Dürer, Melchior Lorck, and Rembrandt to Manet and Hammershøi. The presentation of 20th century international and Danish art opens with the great figures of Modernism such as Picasso and Man Ray and traces developments up until contemporary works.