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06 · 03 · 2017

Aarhus 2017 and All That Surrounds It

This year Aarhus (2nd largest city in Denmark) is European Capital of Culture (a title shared with Pafos in Cyprus) under the headline “RETHINK”.

After a year of numerous terror strikes and political unrest, all challenging a unified Europe, the theme seems evident. The initiative of yearly changing European capitals of culture stems from the wish to foster and create cultural exchange within Europe – the idea that we are stronger together. In a time of political division, what better to unite us than culture?


Aarhus 2017 offers cultural exchange between Aarhus and the world as well as engaging local municipalities and forces within the region, without whom it would not be possible. Moreover, 2017 is the year where focus shifts away from the Danish capital and the large institutions of the capital area, like Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, towards not only the fine city of Aarhus, but the many great towns, nature sights and museums that surround it.


This is where Denmark benefits from its small size; if one should find themselves in Aarhus this year it’s easy to visit all that the region has to offer.


During the last decade, multiple high-profiled museums in the region has in one way or another been given a make-over, which has been awarded with great publicity and international recognition. Not surprisingly, most of this attention is based on architecturally interesting new museum buildings.  Last year marked the re-opening of KUNSTEN in Aalborg, built in marble by famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 1972.


Olafur Eliasson’s rainbow-colored rotunda, Your Rainbow Panorama, on the rooftop of the ARoS Museum of Modern Art in the heart of Aarhus, finished in 2011, is now a city landmark and has been the object of affection of thousands of selfie-lovers. ARoS is of high calibre and can easily compete with international museums of modern art, with exhibitions showcasing world-renowned artist from Robert Mapplethorpe to Monet and an upcoming exhibition with Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud (opening October 2017). Boy, a 4.5 metres tall life-like installation by Australian artist Ron Mueck, is what put ARoS on the international art map and can still be found in the Museum foyer. The big cube shaped building entails a so-called “museum street” that allows the city’s inhabitants to enjoy part of the collection admission free, thus providing a unique city-museum relation.


This is also the case with the Moesgaard Museum, located on the outskirts of Aarhus, which also bears the more international name MOMU. The museum, designed by Danish Henning Larsen Architects, opened its doors in 2014 and has been praised for its architecture that has provided locals with a new public space. With its beautiful surroundings, overlooking the Aarhus Bay, the grass covered roof serves as an ideal picnic spot, as well as a sledding spot during winter.


The MOMU consists of permanent archaeological – and ethnographic collections as well as a special exhibition. Leading to the ethnographic exhibitions is the Origin Staircase that greets visitors with anatomically precise reconstructions of human species:


An Australian aborigine, Stephen Hawking, the internationally acclaimed British physicist, and a Siberian female shaman – each offering their very diverse estimates of where we as humans come from and where we are going. From


During this summer, the roof of the MOMU will also be the centre stage for Røde Orm (Red Worm) a Viking saga that will be one of the biggest outdoor performances ever staged in Denmark. The performance play is based on the novel The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson, and is staged in collaboration with The Danish Royal Theatre and Aarhus 2017.


HEART-Core Art  

In 1961 the Italian artist Piero Manzoni paid a visit to Herning, a municipality adjacent to Aarhus, where he created the masterpiece Socle du Monde (the Earth’s Socket) making the Earth into a giant piece of art. The conceptual artist best known for his work Merda d’artista (yes indeed, the artist’s shit) died a few years later, but his artwork in Herning remains. In relation to Aarhus 2017, the HEART Museum of Modern Art in Herning will be celebrating Piero Manzoni and his Socle du Monde with a show of the same name. HEART has brought together a tour de force of curators who has been collecting chosen pieces from more than 60 artists among which are prominent avant-garde artist such as Yves Klein (FR), Lucio Fontana (I), Wim Delvoye (BE) and Yaoi Kusama (JA). The latter starred in a major retrospective at the Louisiana of Modern Art last year; a huge success that welcomed more than 340.000 guests. The Socle du Monde exhibition is based on an artwork birthed from cultural exchange between an eccentric Italian and an old Danish borough, now inviting artists from all over the old to shed a new light on universal principals:


It composes a narrative that binds the simple concepts of identity, spirit, light, body, faeces, space, time, birth, and earth, which comprise the Manzoni cosmology and creates a complex environment of historical and avant-garde approaches. From


The Socle du Monde is showing at HEART from 21st April – 28th August.


Seven Deadly Sins  

Gluttony, Pride, Lust, Sloth, Envy, Anger, and Greed; Seven Deadly Sins as described since early Christian times that has inspired great works such as Dante’s The Divine Comedy.


The Seven Deadly Sins is being thematised and redefined by different artists in seven different large-scale museums in the region during Aarhus 2017. Though based on a common European cultural heritage the Seven Deadly Sins Project is not based on religion, but is instead confronting the contemporary values of Western society. American artist Barbara Kruger, best known for her graphic collages displaying text that addresses problematic cultural constructions, is rethinking consumerism with the theme Greed at Museum of Religious Art in Lemvig:


Kruger’s use of the visual language of graphic texts, photography, pictures and the direct address tactics of advertising offers a critical reflection on cultural and social identity, and on how they are formed and demonstrated through consumption. From


At Randers Art Museum the sin of Lust is being interpreted by Danish sculptor Christian Lemmerz and American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. What happens when lust elevates from being a natural precondition of desire that concerns most animals, including humans, to being a dangerous sexual obsession. Holzer and Lemmerz focuses on Lust as something that can lead to murder, assault, rape and bestiality.

The Seven Deadly Sins project will continuously feature events including a European youth exchange of performance artist, each interpreting a deadly sin in relation to their own cultural identity.


Come together coast to coast  

Aarhus 2017 is not limited to museums and institutions, but is also filtering into everyday life.


The Austrian Sound Artist, Andreas Bosshard, is coming to Aarhus with his work SonicArk, but it will be the city itself that provides its sounds: from January till mid-March, bus drivers all over Aarhus will be playing the echoes of bells that ring every time a new-born is welcomed to the world at the local hospital. They will open their windows so that the sounds can intertwine with the soundscape of the city.


And how does the forest sound like? As a part of the sound-project ‘OverHEARD’, Estonian artist Birgit Õigus has made three gigantic wooden installations in the shapes of megaphones and placed them in the midst of the forest of Silkeborg (an hour drive from Aarhus). The megaphones ensnare people to climb inside and enjoy the acoustic space that magnifies the sounds that surround them.

Aarhus 2017 seems to have as goal to transcend the number one impediment for the arts, namely that of it being perceived as something elitist. A way of accommodating this issue is to transfer art out of the white cubes in big cities, which is what the all year-round project, Coast to Coast, is all about.


Acclaimed Scottish artist, Nathan Coley, has created a series of illuminated text works all displaying the words THE SAME FOR EVERYONE. Coley found his inspiration when he visited ‘Friland’ in Central Jutland, where he came across a sign reading “Same for all” and the works seek to bring our attention to the treasured Danish value of equality for all:


“The sentence, the words in themselves are not the focus of the work, and the sites will of course always be there. It is in the space where the words and their surroundings meet that magic happens.” Nathan Coley on


The purpose of the European Capital of Culture is to strengthen the understanding of our differences as well as the things that unites us in order to provide Europeans with a feeling of European citizenship. Aarhus 2017 is relying on the help from the regions 19 municipalities and thousands of volunteers. It connects its citizens with each other and together they accommodate the rest of the world and everyone is invited.


It would be almost impossible to cover all exhibitions, concerts and events, but rest assured – there is not a dull moment during Aarhus 2017.


Fore more information, go to