Louisiana, Denmark - a perfect synthesis of sculpture, archictecture and landscape

Louisiana, a contemporary art gallery north of Copenhagen just has to be one of my most favourite places. Not for the contents so much (I am no great fan of contemporary art) but for the extraordinary and quite unique synthesis of art, landscape and architecture it offers. It also has an atmosphere of immense calm, almost a healing atmosphere. I think I have been there six or seven times now and every time I walk away quite mesmerised by it. Louisiana link here.

I once went to an exhibition there about the design of museums, which made the point that western museums tended to be macho statements that put the building first whereas in Japan many museums are designed to melt themselves into a landscape; oddly enough I don’t recall the exhibition having made the point that this was just what Louisiana was doing. My only experience of Japanese museum culture has been the Adachi Museum, and that does the job amazingly, as you don’t actually get to see the outside of the building at all.

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Louisiana offers an experience of a restful parkland landscape, its sculpture collection, and views over the Øresund to Sweden. You are either in the garden, or you are looking at it from carefully framed vistas inside, or you are getting snatches. Or indeed underground, as many of the galleries are below the surface. A journey around the museum takes you down below, then up again, along light corridors with trees, and shrubs on either side (including one of the biggest beech trees I have ever seen) or just throws you snatches of greenery, and then down again into another underground bit. You are hardly ever aware of the building from the outside; it is all about being in, and looking out.

Not surprisingly, orientation is completely unlike that of a conventional gallery building. In fact it is very easy to get very lost, but not to worry as you just find and exit into the central lawn area and dive into another door. There are also lots of little paths down around a lake and down to the coast, all with judiciously-placed sculpture on the way. Children everywhere, and that is one of the wonderful things about the place; this is Denmark after all, it is very child-friendly, so it doesn’t have that precious-pretentious air that so many galleries have.

The planting is very Danish, i.e. quite minimal. This is not a great gardening culture, but one where a limited number of plants are used to great effect; hedges in particular. The simplicity adds to the sense of calm and of course does not compete with the sculpture.