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Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art presents Aagaard Andersen in use

Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art presents Aagaard Andersen in use. A selection of works from the 1950s onwards on view 17 August–6 October 2013.

“A Danish Pythagoras in blue denim, with pageboy hair, poised behind the wheel of his sputtering 35-year-old beast, on the way to the wooden castle of Munkerup.”

This is how the composer Niels Viggo Bentzon characterized his friend Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, in an article in Politiken on October 27, 1973. In Bentzon’s estimation, Danish art was very lucky to have the phenomenon of Gunnar Aagaard Andersen within its reach. The ‘sputtering beast’ was the large Citröen DS, the design of which can still appeal to a kind of pathos in the heart. The wooden castle of Munkerup was Munkeruphus in Dronningmølle—a large wooden house which formed the setting for Aagaard Andersen’s private and working life, from 1959 to 1982.

It is a great pleasure to be able to present at last a comprehensive retrospective of the artist, designer and architect Gunnar Aagaard Andersen (1919–82). He was one of the most groundbreaking Danish artists of his time, both because of his innovative thinking and because of the way in which he experimented with materials. Today, several of Aagaard Andersen’s works have gained iconic status, and therefore renewed relevance, due partly to the ‘crossover’ approach that he took within his practice. These days, when design and visual art tend to mix and overlap to an unprecedented extent, it makes a lot of sense to find out what there is to learn from Aagaard Andersen’s impressive productions.

This exhibition is the result of a research project by senior researcher Vibeke Petersen M.A., in curatorial collaboration with the artist Jørgen Michaelsen. For the first time ever, Aagaard Andersen’s work is presented from sketch to finished product, encompassing his set design, graphic design, the legendary polyurethane furniture, his drip paintings, textiles, wallpaper patterns, carpets, etc. His use of typography as a graphic element, displaced onto carpets and upholstery textiles, along with his approach to materials and the shaping of furniture, are early examples of the ways in which design and art can flow seamlessly into one another. The textile design company Kvadrat, in connection with this exhibition, are reprinting five of Aagaard Andersen’s earlier textile designs. In the 1950s, Aagaard Andersen was attached to Unika Væv, which was later to develop into Kvadrat—and it was there that he designed patterns, created a new colour system, and worked on graphic layouts.

The intention of this exhibition is to spark new interest and insight into his diverse artistic work. Over the last few decades, he has not received huge recognition here in his homeland. There have been few exhibitions showing his works, and more often than not they have focused exclusively on his modernist paintings or sculptures. On the other hand, there has been a growing interest in his work overseas. The Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK) in Vienna, amongst others, have expressed interest in Aagaard Andersen’s polyurethane chair (which is now a part of the MoMA collection).

This exhibition at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art will, therefore, set out to illuminate Aagaard Andersen’s visual thought process and his ceaseless desire to experiment—as well as focusing on the interesting dilemmas which have sparked the debates about the relationship between art and design in the 20th and now the 21st century. Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art hopes that the exhibition can create awareness within the younger generations—of Aagaard Andersen’s significant life’s work, and of his importance for Danish art and design history—thereby gaining a more nuanced picture of the development between art and design, both in Denmark and abroad.

A seminar will be held in connection with the exhibition, in which Gunnar Aagaard Andersen’s significance and work will be debated and explored. This will take place on September 26 at Den Frie.

Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art
Oslo Plads 1
DK- 2100 Copenhagen Ø