7 April 2004 was the official opening of ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in the presence, among other dignitaries, of the museum’s Patron Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II. 8 April the new 17,700 square metre building, situated in central Århus and costing DKK 306m opened its doors to the public. The event marked a new era in the museum’s almost 150-year history: the provincial art museum with high ambitions now emerged as a national museum with international ambitions. To highlight its new profile, Aarhus Kunstmuseum added ARoS to its name.
With thousands of square metres spanning ten levels the museum now has ample space to showcase its extensive collection of 1100 paintings, 400 sculptures and installations, 200 art videos and over 7,000 drawings, photos and graphics: a collection that ahead of the inauguration was enhanced by the addition of works by international artists such as Bill Viola, Tony Oursler, Carsten Höller, Miwa Yanagi and James Turrell. In large measure, a donation of DKK 40m by New Carlsberg Foundation over a ten-year period enabled the purchase of these works.
The new art museum contains three large galleries of just under 1,100 square metres each for permanent exhibitions allowing visitors the opportunity to view a broad spectrum of works from the museum’s own collection. In addition, recent acquisitions of international light and video works are displayed in the basement level of the museum in a special exhibition gallery called ‘The 9 Spaces.’
Lastly, the museum has two further galleries at its disposal: the dedicated special exhibitions gallery commanding 1,100 square metres and the West Gallery with 350 square metres.
ARoS’ striking architecture is the creation of Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen. The Århus-based practice won the 1997 competition for the design of the new Aarhus Kunstmuseum from a field of some 109 architectural firms from around the world.
The building is cube-shaped, 43 metres tall and 54 by 54 metres wide. It is divided by a curved “museum street”, to which the public has access without an admission fee. A spiral staircase accentuates the mid-point of the “street” and, upon payment of an entrance fee, visitors gain full access to all of the museum’s galleries and facilities.
Founded by citizens of Aarhus in 1859, Aarhus Kunstmuseum is Denmark’s largest art collection outside Copenhagen.
The museum owns notable collections of Danish art that span 300 years plus a noteworthy contingent of modern art. Particularly worthy of mention among the eighteenth century paintings are the works of N.A. Abildgaard, while nineteenth century representatives of the Danish “Golden Age” include Eckersberg, Købke, Lundbye, Roed, Rørbye, Marstrand and P.C.Skovgaard. Figures within National Romanticism include Jørgen Sonne, Exner and Christen Dalsgaard, while landscape painting is represented by Janus la Cour. Within Social Realism, Frants Henningsen and Edvard Petersen stand out. From the turn of the century, the museum has an estimable collection of major works by Vilhelm Hammershoi alongside important works by P.S. Krøyer and J.F. Willumsen.
The advent of modernism in the 1900s is fully manifest in the works of Harald Giersing, Edvard Weie, Olaf Rude and Vilhelm Lundstrøm, alongside the powerful landscapes by Jens Søndergaard, Niels Lergaard and Oluf Høst. A key component in the representation of abstract art is the museum’s Richard Mortensen Collection in conjunction with Robert Jacobsen’s sculptures – works that are complemented by the expressivist art of Svend Wiig Hansen and that of the richly imaginative Asger Jorn as well as the other Cobra painters.
The art of the modern age finds expression in the museum’s important collections of work by Bjørn Nørgaard and Per Kirkeby while not least the later work of the Danish “Neue Wilden” is also well represented. The most recent work down to the present reflects the introduction of an international dimension into the collection, and includes works by Miwa Yanagi and Carsten Höller, among others. Installation art too has made its entrance through names such as Olafur Eliasson, Tony Oursler, James Turrell, Bill Viola and more.