Sunday, May 22, 2011


After a week on a ship with an interior following the same design principles as the average drag queen, I decided to spend a couple of extra days in Copenhagen enjoying the pleasures of good design.

I started out in Copenhagen’s beautiful Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, a sculpture museum based around the collection of the son of the founder of Carlsberg Breweries. The lobby is a luxurious but typical piece of late Victorian architecture, with mosaic tiled floors, ornate brass stair newels and stained glass barrel skylights . However it opens into the museum’s central atrium, which is not typical at all.

It’s a Winter Garden filled with shrubs and trees, some nearly four storeys tall. There’s a pond filled with goldfish, and birds chitter in the trees. It’s dotted with classical sculptures and through the trees you glimpse other galleries filled with artworks.

The photos don’t capture the almost magical feeling of having a beautiful garden at the core of an art museum*. It feels utterly civilised.

It’s also very old-fashioned, harking back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when museums were all about luxuriating in the beauty of the past rather than learning improving lessons about Babylonian irrigation systems or the role of the maternal ideal in medieval religious painting. One gallery, filled with Roman statuary and mosaics, also boasted a grand piano and tall urns of flowers, suggesting that it doubled as a venue for elegant social functions.

While the museum has amassed a lovely collection of paintings and a formidable range of ancient artefacts, it’s primarily about the sculptures. Pieces by Rodin and Degas are complemented by 20th century Danish works and two thousands year old figures unearthed across Greece, Italy and Egypt. My favourite piece was probably the 1903 depiction of Perseus Slaying Medusa by Laurent-Honoré Marqueste, breathtaking in both its sense of emotional drama and in its physical delicacy, with each individual snake of Medusa’s hair flawlessly carved out of the marble.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it. I was busy with other things.

*This photo from Wikipedia captures the sense of the garden better.


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