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Art by the sea

Kalpana Sunder, Feb 12, 2017

Soak it up

Cool creations: Artist Henry Moore's Two Piece Reclining Figure No 5. Photo by author
I step into a pitch-black room, and as the door closes, the last thing I remember is my fear of closed spaces. The whole place glitters with what looks like thousands of small bulbs — it is mesmerising; the walls and ceilings are covered with mirrors; the floor is a reflecting pool; the viewer stands in the middle of the water on a platform. Hanging from the ceiling above are hundreds of tiny lamps that resemble glowing balls. These lamps change colour in a slow transition that transports us into a surreal rhythm.

Space of colours

The whole experience is like an ethereal walk in outer space, surrounded by clusters of stars. I almost forget the camera that I am holding, or the fact that I wanted a selfie. For that moment in time, there are only the lights and me — a truly magical experience bordering on the spiritual. I’m inside the psychedelic extravaganza called Gleaming Lights of the Soul, a creation of avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama, who is crazy about bright colours, infinity and polka dots.

Imagine a picnic under an Alexander Calder mobile, or lounging on the lawns near a Henry Moore sculpture. All that and more is possible at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Denmark museum housed in a 19th-century villa that’s perched on a cliff on the north Zealand coast that overlooks the sparkling resund straits between Denmark and Sweden, and just a 45-minute train ride from Copenhagen.

It was named Louisiana by the first owner of the estate, Alexander Brun, who had three wives, all named Louise. The museum was founded by Knud W Jensen, who wanted the general public to have access to art and culture, and houses modern art works by Danish and international artists, with both temporary and permanent exhibitions.

What is really unique about the museum is the way it blends art, architecture and nature. Nature is woven into the whole experience — views of the azure sea from the glass windows, the landscaped gardens studded with sculptures, and the sunlight streaming in. The building itself is a work of art with huge floor-to-ceiling glass windows and sharp angles with long straight corridors. The building, crafted with wood, glass, brick and plaster seems to follow the rolling contours of the land with just two stories and spreading its wings from a central building.

Sculptures around

The landscaped gardens that extend down to the sea are home to exceptional sculptures by some of the greatest 20th century artists. Henry Moore’s Two Piece Reclining Figure No 5 sits at the edge of the waterside, soaking up the beautiful sunlight and tying the earth and sky together. More than 60 sculptures by artists such as Henry Moore and Alexander Calder are artfully placed, juxtaposed with the ever-changing vistas of sea, sky and gardens.

I catch sight of a whole house in black and white — Dynamic Manor by artist Jean Dubuffet. My favourite is Poul Gernes’s six-metre-high wooden pyramid and installation at the water’s edge, which invites guests to clamber all over it — and we feel like children again — in order to get a better view of the area as a whole.

I watch the sailboats and ferries plying their courses on the sound — there’s even a pebbly beach and a small pier below the lawn.

Visiting this museum is a highly interactive experience as you are walking in and out of spaces, taking in some of the finest pieces of art produced from 1945. The impressive artist roster includes Picasso, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore, Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston, Morris Louis, Per Kirkeby and many more. I love Greenlandic artist Pia Arke’s collages, where on maps of Greenland, the artist has created a record of personal memories with family portraits and even everyday groceries like coffee, oats and sugar! I enjoy Louisiana’s Panorama Room in the South Wing. The work consists partly of the view from the Panorama Room that was already there: the sea, a few trees outermost in the visual field, and the sky. And it also consists of an object that the artists have placed in the room: a white diving board which extends into the open through the window, and it looks surreal.

The Giacometti’s Gallery, with his trademark long and slender figures wrought in metal — like the Walking Man — is stunning against the backdrop of the willows outside the glass windows. Offering a counterpoint to all the serious and classic art is Franz West’s Parrhesia — a group of playful sculptures made from papier mch, painted in garish colours, and mounted on wooden stands. ‘Parrhesia’ is Greek for ‘speaking freely’, and this group of objects seems to just convey a childish joy in art. I find my Indian connection in Dayanita Singh’s File Museum — a cabinet full of images from Indian archives that acts like a memory machine.

Kids have an entire wing for themselves where they can create masterpieces inspired by the gallery’s exhibitions, using everything from crayons to computers. With its large sunny terrace and sea views, Louisiana’s cafe is a fabulous spot for coffee, while the museum shop stocks art books, art reproductions, graphics, posters, postcards, design and classical CDs — all this combine in making Louisiana an absolute pleasure and a sensory feast.

 

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