Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg
The Kunsten Museum is a museum of modern art in the city of Aalborg, Northern Denmark. The iconic building of the museum was designed in the 1960s by famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.
The museum was founded in 1879, as the Aalborg Museum of Art, to present mainly modern Danish art. In 1896, the institution moved to a new building, which currently houses the Aalborg Historical Museum, before organizing an architectural competition to design its permanent home in 1957; the proposal by Alvar Aalto, Elissa Aalto, and Jean-Jacques Baruël eventually won the competition. Meanwhile, the museum expanded substantially its collection of Danish modern art and acquired several works by international artists including Pablo Picasso, Le Corbusier, and Marc Chagall. In 1972, after changing its name to North Jutland Museum of Art, the institution relocated to the then recently completed building designed by Aalto; in 2002, it
changed again its name to Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg.
Between 2014 and 2016, the museum underwent a major restoration and renovation after a design by C.F. Møller Architects.
The 6,000-square-meter / 64,600-square-foot building designed by Alvar Aalto’s team consists of a sequence of concrete and wood boxes stacked on one another in a pyramid-like configuration. Aalto devised this peculiar shape to provide the museum of as much natural light as possible. To do not harm the artworks on display, daylight is mainly conveyed into the museum indirectly. After entering the museum through windows and skylights, daylight is filtered, reflected and diffused by a number of carefully-positioned surfaces painted in white or clad with bright materials like the Carrara marble used for paving most of the gallery space and communal areas.
The building contains five galleries, with a total area of 2,500 square meters, a foyer, a cloakroom, a library, an auditorium, a cafe, a shop, offices, and workshops, as well as an open-air amphitheater and a sculpture park with works by Bjørn Nørgaard, Mogens Møller, Jeppe Hein, and Gunnar Aagaard Andersen. The galleries vary in shape, dimensions, and lighting to properly accommodate artworks of different styles, types, and sizes.
View from the west; photo © Niels Fabaek.
South elevation, courtesy of C.F. Møller Architects.
The foyer. Photo © Niels Fabaek.
Collection and exhibitions
The collection of the Kunsten museum comprises about 1,500 pieces, mostly by modern and contemporary Danish artists – including Vilhelm Lundstrøm, Jens Søndergaard, Erik Hoppe, Ejler Bille, Asger Jorn, Carl-Henning Pedersen, Richard Mortensen, and Kirsten Christensen -, and a smaller number of works by international artists, including Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
Pieces from the museum collection are usually displayed in semi-permanent thematic exhibitions.
The program of the Kunsten museum also features temporary exhibitions, talks, lectures, conferences, workshops, educational activities, and special events.
The Main Hall. It is used for temporary exhibitions and large artworks. Photo © Rasmus Hjortshoj.
The Small Gallery and the Sky-lit Gallery. Photos © Rasmus Hjortshoj.
The library of the museum was originally conceived by Aalto as a chamber music room. Photo © Rasmus Hjortshoj.
Cover image: Kunsten Art Museum Aalborg, photo Astrid Westvang
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