The Louisiana Collection, which consists of more than 3,500 works, is international in its perspective as well as its scale. It covers the period from 1945 to the present and includes almost every genre – with an emphasis on painting and sculpture. Here can be found major works by Picasso, Giacometti, Dubuffet, Klein, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Moore, Jorn, Baselitz, Polke, Kiefer and Kirkeby.
The Louisiana Collection is continually expanded and renewed, and it is far too large to be shown in its entirety. For this reason, besides the major individual features that are almost always on view – including the Asger Jorn Gallery, the Giacometti Gallery, the Kusama Room and of course the Sculpture Park – the bulk of the collection is shown in rotating selective presentations. This arrangement allows space for Louisiana’s exhibitions, and it also provides opportunities to show the works in new ways and new configurations. In this way, the collection is kept fresh and alive even for guests who come to the museum regularly.
FOCUS POINTS IN THE COLLECTION
It has never been Louisiana’s objective to represent the entire chronological line of modern art. The collection instead focuses on concentrated groups of works and artists of which visitors can gain a deeper understanding. This is particularly true of artists such as Giacometti and Asger Jorn, who are both represented by numerous and very distinguished works.
It is also true of a number of artistic periods, the European Nouveau Réalisme with Yves Klein, American Pop Art with Warhol and Lichtenstein, German art in the 1980s with Kiefer and Baselitz, and video art since the 1990s. The museum works constantly to renew the collection and, if possible, close any "holes". For example, on the classic modern front, the museum was able to add pieces by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston and David Hockney, and it has also acquired a number of major works from the contemporary international artistic scene.
EUROPEAN ART AFTER 1945
The Louisiana Collection’s point of departure is the first years after the Second World War.At that time, Danish artists such as Robert Jacobsen and Richard Mortensen moved to Paris and came into contact with like-minded sculptors and painters who are now represented in the museum. Examples include Vasarely, Herbin, Dewasne, Albers, Soto and other artists associated with Constructivism, for example Gabo, Bill, Rickey and Calder.
Two large donations have bolstered Louisiana's collection of Constructivist art significantly : In 1986, the museum received from The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation in New York some 200 American and European works from the period after 1945. And from Celia Ascher, also of New York, Louisiana received a collection of studies containing drawings and gouaches from early Russian and European Constructivism.
The COBRA movement, which was founded in 1948 as a collaboration between Danish, Dutch and Belgian artists, is represented in the collection by many works. Besides pieces by Jorn, Heerup and other Danish COBRA members, there are also works of Appeal, Alechinsky, Corneille and Lucebert. Other aspects of the museum’s collection of European art from the 1950s have been expanded with sculptures by Giacometti and Richier as well as works by Dubuffet, Tàpies and Bacon, which play a special role, especially from a northern European perspective.
Of the European art from the 1960s in the Louisiana Collection, the Nouveau Réalisme movement figures prominently, with works by French, Italian and Swiss artists such as Arman, Yves Klein, Fontana, Tinguely, César and Raysse. Several other European artists who worked in the 1960s and set a significant artistic agenda in the 1970s are also represented. These include the German Joseph Beuys, the Italian Mario Merz and the British Richard Long.
In the early 1980s, the new “wild” painting style emerged as an international movement that spread from Italy to Germany and the United States. It posed a renewed challenge for the potential of painting and reintroduced figurative and expressive modes of representation. The Italians Cucchi and Paladino; German artists such as Penck, Immendorf, Lüpertz, Baselitz, Polke, Richter and Kiefer; and the Dane Kirkeby all have important works in the Louisiana Collection.
Presentation of a number of Constructionists in the collection. On left: Victor Vasarely’s Zilah (1957) and Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square, Yellow Climate (1961). Center: Naum Gabo’s Søjle (Column, 1923/75). On right: Robert Jacobsen’s sculpture in wrought iron (c. 1959).
A stay in Paris after the Second World War brought these two Danish painters in contact with currents on the international art scene, not least Constructivism. On left: Mortensen’s Evisa (1960). On right: the monumental Opus Normandie (1955). The two iron sculptures of Robert Jacobsen are from 1958-59.
AMERICAN ART AFTER 1945
A number of significant works have given the Louisiana Collection a certain standing in its presentation of American movements of the 1950s and 1960s such as Pop Art, Minimalism and Color Field. Names such as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Dine and Oldenburg ensure that Pop Art has an eminent presence in the museum, while the minimalist movement is represented by Sol Lewitt, Ryman, Judd and Flavin.
The American Color Field group of painters is also well represented. With nine large and four smaller works (most of which were donated by Marcella Louis Brenner), the museum holds a significant collection of paintings by Morris Louis, which is supplemented by works by Reinhardt, Rothko, Noland, Kelly and Stella.
In addition, the collection contains works of several American artists who had a significant presence in the 1960s and also created rich and varied work in the 1970s – for example Kienholz, Oppenheim and Tuttle. In addition, the collection contains significant works of the American New Image painters of the 1980s such as Salle, Fischl and Jenney.
With funding from the A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal, in 2007 Louisiana was able to acquire David Hockney’sA Closer Grand Canyon (1998). With a stroke, this 2 x 7.5 m large masterpiece placed Hockney, whose artistic career is in many ways rooted in the American tradition, at the heart of the museum's collection.
Major works of American Pop Art: Center: Roy Lichtenstein’s large Figures in a Landscape (1977). On right: Robert Rauschenberg’s Tideline (1963). On left: Andy Warhol’s Portrait of Josef Beuys (1979). Center-right (elevated): British pop pioneer Richard Hamilton’s relief The Gold Guggenheim (1965-66).
When Louisiana opened in 1958, it was actually intended to be a museum of modern Danish art. For several years, the museum's founder, Knud W. Jensen, had collected works of the Danish modernists, and he wanted to present them in Humlebæk. But as early as one year later, at the large Documenta II exhibition in Kassel, Germany, he was struck by what he later called a "Documenta shock." Jensen decided immediately to change course at Louisiana, and he now saw it as his and the museum’s clear mission to promote international art in Denmark.
Although for several years the museum continued to acquire works by Danish artists, after a period the focus shifted solely towards the Danish artists who had an international career – Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby, for example. Much later, from around the turn of the millennium, this focus widened again as Danish contemporary art came to play an steadily larger role outside the country’s borders.
Louisiana's collection of Danish art up to about 1960 contains a large number of major works in Danish art history that deserve to be shown more frequently than is possible in Humlebæk. The museum’s executive director, Poul Erik Tøjner, therefore decided in 2010 to launch a major lending program and invited all the Danish state-authorized museums to choose paintings and sculptures from a pool of about one hundred works. The selections had to be justified by the context in which they would appear in the individual museums’ collections.
In this way, Louisiana’s Danish works could not only come to light but also did so "in better and more meaningful company," according to the explanation. Many of these works – by Karl Isakson, William Lundstrøm, Harald Giersing, Erik Hoppe, Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Carl-Henning Pedersen, Richard Mortensen, Henry Heerup, Ejler Bille, Egill Jacobsen and others – were therefore shown collectively at Louisiana in the summer of 2010 before they "traveled" to their various destinations, on loan for an initial period of ten years.
New pieces are steadily added to the museum’s collection of Jorn paintings. On left: one of the most recent acquisitions, Etwas Bleibt (Something Remains, 1963). It was presented as part of Pink Caviar, an exhibition of acquisitions from 2009-11. Acquisition with funds from C.F. Davids Fond og Samling.
CONTEMPORARY ART FROM 1990 ONWARDS
The artwork of the 1990s is well represented by pieces by Mona Hatoum, Pipilotti Rist, Sam Taylor-Wood, Sherrie Levine, Gary Hill, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley and others. The Louisiana Collection is kept up to date with acquisitions and donations so that it also reflects the latest trends and media in contemporary art.
The most recent acquisitions range across a wide variety of media and artistic expression, with works by Jonathan Meese, Julie Mehretu, Tal R, John Armleder, Thomas Demand, Wolfgang Tillmans, Olaf Breuning, Rineke Dijsktra, Superflex, Elmgreen and Dragset, Isa Genzken, Candice Breitz, Runa Islam, Jesper Just, Aernout Mik, Doug Aitken and Bill Viola, among others.
THE SCULPTURE PARK
In addition to the sculptures that are located inside the museum, around 60 works are presented in the Park. Some are positioned in relation to the buildings and therefore look best when you see them from inside. Others have their own specific space in sculpture courtyards. And finally there are sculptures that require space around them and stand freely in the Park. These include works of Arp, Calder, Ernst, Heerup, Miró, Moore and others. Finally, artists such Serra, Trakas, Cucchi and Karavan have created site-specific sculptures for the Louisiana Park.
Outside the glass corridor in the North Wing stand three of the Surrealist master Max Ernst’s figures. Foreground: the winged Det store geni (the Great Genius), the frog Den store hjælper (the Great Helper) and Den store skildpadde (the Great Turtle). All from 1967/76 and donations from Max Ernst.
THE EXHIBITIONS LEAVE THEIR TRACE
Louisiana considers it important that there is a relation between the exhibitions on display and the development of the collection. This means that many exhibitions leave their trace on the museum. This takes place through acquisitions and donations, and Louisiana depends largely on private individuals’ and foundations’ goodwill and generosity.
In 2001, Louisiana held the David Hockney – Paintings 1960-2000 exhibition, with the monumental painting A Closer Grand Canyon, among other pieces. Later, in 2007, it was presented as part of the Louisiana Collection, thanks to funding from the A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal. At the exhibition in 2001, the painting hanged beside Hockney’s A Bigger Grand Canyon (on the left), which belongs to the National Gallery of Australia.
In 2007, Louisiana held an exhibition of drawings by the American artist Philip Guston in the East Wing. Some paintings were also shown, and they were acquired for the museum’s collection with the help of funds from the C.L. Davids Fond og Samling. Examples are Mirror to S.K. (1960) and Division (shown here, 1975).