HEART: Herning Museum of Contemporary Art
has officially opened to the general public, presenting a new house for the arts designed by the world-famous architect Steven Holl. And a special exhibition of works by Jannis Kounellis, one of the pre-eminent artists of Italy and our present time.
Steven Holls ground-breaking museum building was inspired by Hernings history as a textile town. Moulded out of white concrete, the building has a crinkly, crumpled surface like fabric. The roof structure comprises five shells reminiscent of shirtsleeves cut lengthwise. A concrete tent is a term used affectionately by museum inspector Holger Reenberg to describe the museum, which is situated right across from the former art museum in Herning, surrounded by the magnificent geometric gardens, architecture by Utzon, and Ingvar Cronhammers sculpture Elia. Steven Holl is among the star architects of the world and has received numerous rewards for his work. HEART was designed on the basis of his personal interpretation of the landscape surrounding the museum.
Holl is among the select group of architects to have been awarded the Alvar Aalto medal for their work. The firm's design credits include the KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki. Finland, and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
HEART has two institutions in residence: The MidWest Ensemble and Socle du Monde. The ensemble is the pre-eminent chamber music company in Denmark, while Socle du Monde is a biennial founded by a collaboration between artists and the business community.
Thus co-habitation within a single building provides HEART with the ability to create a unique programme where audiences can enjoy the results of the recurring biennial and also have the opportunity to experience a wide range of collaborations that bridge the various art forms.
HEART was designed to fit its specific site and to complement the range of purposes for the building as well as the unique history of the city in which it resides. HEART is designed to relate to its neighbours Utzons prototype house and the Angli factory thereby also relating the history which created the place.
The theme of HEART concerns tactility and materiality. The external walls, moulded on-site, were created in white concrete, and the facades greet us with a wrinkled, textile like surface. These tactile (and textile) references are continued on the roof.
The roof is made up of five forms reminiscent of shirtsleeves cut lengthwise. The "sleeves" create evoke associations with the neigbouring Angli shirt factory with Paul Gadegaards decorative work and to the raised forms of the Utzon house.
Vertical bands of clerestory glass provide the exhibition rooms with light.
The crucial core of the layout is the two exhibition spaces, the pendicular lines of which lie in juxtaposition to the biomorphic nature of the overall structure. In the space surrounding the core exhibition galleries, HEART also features a concert hall, restaurant, library and visitors centre, which can host two high school classes at a time and offers state of the art options for educational programmes.
The fields surrounding the building are transformed into grass-covered berms and reflecting pools concealing the parking and utility areas. The landscape reaches its culmination in the square which features a large pool and is situated near the restaurant, library, and visitors centre. Furnished with outdoor stage facilities, it serves as a pivotal point of relaxed social interaction during the summer season. Here, one can watch a performance, experience new media art, or listen to electronic and rock music.
Freedom or Death la libertá o morte
HEART Herning Museum of Contemporary Art opens its doors for the first time to present a retrospective exhibition of the works of Italian artist Jannis Kounellis. (B. 1936). This is the first major presentation of Kounellis works in Scandinavia, and the artist will create a number of new works for the exhibition.
HEART owns the worlds largest collection of works by the Italian artist Piero Manzoni. In his early works from the 1950s and 1960s Kounellis may well have been the one young artist whose sensibilities and choice of materials came closest to those of Manzoni.
The HEART exhibition of Jannis Kounellis work derives its title from a piece created in 3969. Strictly speaking, the title of the object is not even La Liberta o Morte. Like most of Kounellis work the piece in question has no title, but the statement or exclamation is the very essence of the work. Untitled, 1969 consists of a sheet of iron with dimensions similar to those of classical paintings. The sheet is hung on the wall like a painting. In the iron surface, the words Liberta o Morte W Marat W Robespierre are inscribed. Underneath the inscription is a small iron shelf bearing a lit candle; one of those short, slender tapers lit in front of images of saints in Catholic churches.
With its text, Untitled 1969 refers to the French Revolution and to two of the strongest champions of the Revolution. Marat and Robespierre both fell victim to their own fanaticism, but during their brief careers they also laid down the foundations of the ideals of freedom inherent within Western European democracy.
In this sense Kounelliss work tells us that freedom is the most important thing in our lives, but also that the ideals of freedom and our civil rights were born our of a bloody, selfcontradictory chaos. Both points are worth remembering.
Up until 1965 Kounellis was a painter, but like many other young Italian artists of the time he abandoned painting. Since he let behind the art of painting he has retained the designation painter, but in fact he works with reality 1:1 scale, re-establishing the poetic and historical dimensions ions in the simple and the everyday.