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Exhibition at Statens Museum for Kunst celebrates the centenary of the birth of Asger Jorn
Asger Jorn, In the Beginning was the Image (Im Anfang war das Bild), 1965. Oil on canvas, 199 x 301 cm. Canica Kunstsamling, Oslo.
COPENHAGEN.- Popular polemicist, successful activist, and complex dabbler in paints? Asger Jorn is one of the greatest figures ever to arise out of the Danish art scene, perhaps because of the many paradoxes that infused his life and art. Statens Museum for Kunst celebrates the centenary of the birth of Jorn by presenting a large exhibition in the spring of 2014. Featuring more than 200 works of art the exhibition presents the many and varied facets of Jorn’s life’s work, offering an updated perspective on an artist whose experimental grappling with art, life, and the world still appears fresh, brash, and daring today. The exhibition is arranged in close co-operation with Museum Jorn, which will stage another major exhibition at the same time, focusing on Jorn’s international connections and sources of inspirations.

Those words opened Asger Jorn’s telegram to Harry F. Guggenheim in 1964, sent shortly after he received the news that he, Jorn, had won one of the prestigious Guggenheim Awards. A fun, yet also telling anecdote that becomes particularly ironic today in light of the fact that Jorn is among those Danish artists that have reached the highest sales prices on the international art market. Even more importantly the statement testifies to the unbridled devil-may-care attitude that is so inextricably linked to Jorn’s entire artistic production – a radicality that has, for many years now, languished somewhat as other narratives about the Danish artist have taken centre stage.

The Forgotten Jorn
The large-scale anniversary exhibition at the SMK is based on years of research and aims to add new avenues to the narrative about Jorn. Past presentations have most frequently focused exclusively on Jorn’s work as a painter, but the SMK exhibition showcases Jorn’s immense lack of temperance as regards his artistic curiosity and eager desire to get involved in everything from politics and scientific theories to archaeology, architecture, and gender discussions. And whereas Jorn is traditionally depicted as a modernist painter cut from the same cloth as other spontaneous-abstract painters from the era, this anniversary exhibition points to an artist who takes his very own approach to things, making it difficult to pin him down. An artist engaging in a constant dialogue with the world around him, constantly reinventing his own language on canvas, paper, in clay, or in his countless critical reflections in writing. Very importantly, this exhibition puts a new emphasis on the radicality and political and social activism that permeates Jorn’s entire body of work. This artist, who may be the most important Danish artist of the 20th century, is far from proper, polished, and nice!

Jorn Total
Featuring approximately 200 works of art the exhibition brings together a rich selection of Jorn’s paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, ceramics, and theoretical writings. Visitors will find famous major works alongside rarely-seen art from private collections, all combining to showcase Jorn’s work from the early years to his late production: from the political awakening of his youth, a time of bright, figurative forms, to the liberation of colour and form during the CoBrA years and onwards to his increasingly avant-garde experiments which reached an acme with the Situationist International and Jorn’s own Scandinavian Institute for Comparative Vandalism. From the very beginnings to the end all art is commented on and supported by archive materials and a rich and varied exhibition design that helps provide a full picture of an artist who was always on the move.

Museum Jorn and SMK
The SMK has planned this large-scale celebration of the centenary of the birth of Asger Jorn in close co-operation with Museum Jorn. For several years now the two museums have engaged in a close partnership to get the Jorn year off to a great start by staging two exhibitions that perfectly supplement each other. The museum in Silkeborg will show the large-scale exhibition "Expo Jorn – Art is a Festival", which offers a journey through the many different themes that Jorn explores in his works and the different artistic sources and collaborative relationships that inspired them. In addition to a wide range of Jorn’s own works the exhibition presents groundbreaking artists, such as Kandinsky and Picasso, whose principles on form and content inspired Jorn’s work as he gradually found his own unique idiom.

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