|Poster by Henry Heerup, 1957.
Part of the time I did not spend blogging was used helping to organise the 60th anniversary of the Art Library in Copenhagen. The Art Library was founded in 1957 by Knud Pedersen (1925-2014) as one of the first, if not the first, art rental in Europe, and also a very special one. I can think of no other art rental can claim to be embedded in a consistent project to rethink art mediation in all its aspects; a project that has the qualities of an artwork in its innovativeness.
The Art Library originated from an earlier project, The Picture of the City, initiated by Pedersen in 1952. From the late 1940s onwards, Pedersen had been speculating about the uses of art. One of the things he asked himself was, why art had to be hidden away when all other commodities were right out there, meeting people face to face as they went about their daily lives. He compared museums and exhibitons to hotdog stands on every street corner that made sure that people were confronted with sausages wherever they went. Why not treat art in the same manner? He ended up erecting easels all across Denmark where he displayed a representative cross-section of contemporary Danish art. City councils signed a contract with him, and he made sure that the paintings were rotated every so often.
From 1955 onwards, individuals could subscribe to The Picture of the City as well. The Art Library was the logical next step. After all, the customers could not choose which painting they got. When Pedersen in 1957 managed to get permission to rent the empty Nikolaj Church in central Copenhagen, he could put all his paintings on display, so that people could pick the one they liked best. Rental fees were modest, at 3,85 kroner, the price of a packet of cigarettes, for three weeks. Whatever the market value of the painting, the rental fee was always the same. Once again, art was removed from public space, but this was more than compensated for by the fees, which made sure that it could enter homes where art had up until then only been available in the shape of reproductions.
In 1962, visual artist Arthur Køpcke introduced Pedersen to Fluxus and its programme of framing everyday actions as art. Fluxus became a lifelong source of inspiration which had Pedersen experimenting with countless new ways of mediating art: art in jukeboxes (1963), art on the back of lorries (1965), art on the Art Libary's answerphone (1967-) and so on. Around 1970s he also started to formulate proposals for "experimental libraries" as more conceptual frameworks around art. There was a Singing Library, where one could order a song over the telephone; an Instant Library, consisting of all the objects in the area, on loan under normal library conditions; a Money Library, where one could borrow the money the book was worth, provided one handed it back in three weeks later; et cetera. Pedersens last big project, from the 2000s, was the development of an online platform that made it possible to rent out time-based art (video and performance) in the same way that the Art Library rented out paintings.
Given the Art Library's long history of thought-provoking, innovative ways of mediating art, the party committee, of which I was proud to be a member, thought it would be fitting to celebrate its 60th anniversary by questioning the conventions surrounding anniversaries, especially the obligatory speech. Who is allowed to speak? Which content is appropriate? Which form? We decided that in the case of the Art Library, the artists and the borrowers had the best claim to the right to speak, so we invited all of them to send in a contribution to a speech, in a medium of their own choice. These are the building blocks that all the elements of the celebration are based on. We will be presenting them in the shape of a book , an actor will read them out on the streets surrounding Nikolaj Church, they will be on display as an exhibition and three artists will use them as raw material for performances and video works.
Quite an event, so if you are in the area, do try to come. I am sure you won't regret it. Here is the programme:
SPEECH on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Art Library
Saturday 26 August, Kunsthal Nikolaj, Nikolaj Plads 10, Copenhagen, 2-6 PM
2.00 PM - Doors open.
2.30 PM - Welcome, book launch and performance of the SPEECH by actor Poul Storm
3.00 PM - SPEECH #1: claus ejner, "Something About the Future, a Nine Seconds Scream and How to Unachieve That a Dotted Line Is a Dotted Line. A 5 Minute Speech for Knud Pedersen".
3.30 PM - SPEECH # 2: Kristian Schrøder, "Homo Ludens At Work".
4.00 PM - Ulla Hvejsel, "Thinking With Your Ass. A Quizz About the Stupidity We Subscribe To, Based on Artistic Speeches in Connection With the Art Library's 60th Anniversary".
Continuously from 2 to 6 PM:
- Exhibition of paintings 1957-2017 from the Art Library's catalogue.
- Exhibition of contributions to the SPEECH.
- Reading of the SPEECH in the area surrounding Nikolaj Church by actor Poul Storm.
Many thanks to the Danish Art Foundation and the Copenhagen City Council for their suppoort.