Aarhus is probably not on everbody’s travel radar as one usually visits Copenhagen when going to Denmark. However, this year Aarhus is getting special attention and is advertised all over Europe as it (together with Pafos on Cyprus) received the title of European Capital of Culture 2017. I have wanted to do some travelling in Denmark and go see other cities than Copenhagen at some point anyways, the fact that Aarhus was awarded this title was the final reason for me to go there and not to another city in the end.
The European Union annually designates a city as European Capital of Culture (since 2004 it’s been two cities at the same time). The concept of this was initiated already in 1985 and has been amended and altered several times. It started out as an award given to already established cultural capitals but turned into a title to help create cultural cities in Europe, a bit like a ‘scholarship’ to do great cultural things. During this period of one calendar year the city organises a programme of cultural activities and events, sometimes with aims such as raising the international profile of the city or region, expanding the local audience for culture, improving cultural infrastructure, and developing relationships with other European cities. A study conducted in 2004 – the Palmer report – highlights that so far the title the European Capital of Culture has served as a catalyst by transforming cities, enabling cultural development, and positively impacting the socio-economic development.
The core values of Aarhus’ programme for 2017 are sustainability, diversity and democracy while celebrating the ‘folkelige’ traditions ingrained in Denmark as well as ‘the newest that culture can deliver’. With their theme of ‘Let’s Rethink‘, Aarhus wants to touch upon all aspects of Danish culture, ranging from their pageant Viking past to contemporary architecture, trying to ‘transform the Central Denmark Region to a cultural laboratory where alternative solutions can grow’°.
Throughout the city I was able to see a few installations that were part of the Culture Capital year. One of it was the Climate Planet – a gigantic globe with 24m in diameter and 20m tall (higher than a 5-storey building!). This globe shows a journey of the Earth’s past, present and future with the purpose to be an eye-opener for people that the actions of humanity have drastic effects on our dear planet. Find out more about this project here. Unfortunately, this project only opened a few weeks after my visit so I could not have a look inside the globe.
A photo competition is (or was) part of the programme too. In collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Aarhus, Life Exhibitions and the Nordea Foundation 100 pictures were chosen that depict 100 stories of the natural wealth of the area in and around Aarhus. The Habitat Aarhus project is presented at an outdoor-show at Åboulevarden along the canal from May til end October.
Before being European Culture Capital of 2017, Aarhus has already been home to one of the largest art museums of Europe – the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum. #Aarhus2017 has brought a few new exhibitions to the museum.
The oldest Danish art museum outside of Copenhagen was already established in 1859, but the doors to a fourth locality were opened in 2004. Located next to the city’s concert halls the cube-shaped museum displays art on a total of 20,700 m² on 10 storeys.
A spiral staircase is the mid-point of the curved ‘museum street’ inside the building, so already after entering one is greeted by a great open foyer where you get a first impression of the museum’s magnitude. The first item that I noticed was already an exhibition – Valkyrie Rán by Joana Vasconcelos. This is a 50 meter long, very colourful textile exhibition that is hanging across different levels of the building.
Both national and international artists go on display there, and the 800,000 yearly visitors have the possibility to see the museum’s own collection dating back to the 18th century as well as contemporary works and special exhibitions. As an addition light-, video- and installation art can be seen in the special section “The 9 Spaces” in the basement of the museum.
One of the biggest exhibitions inside the museum as well as all over the city which is part of the programme of #Aarhus2017 is THE GARDEN – End of Times; Beginning of Times. It is supposed to illustrate ‘humanity’s depictions and alterations of nature’. The Past is exhibited in ARoS and explores the depiction of nature throughout the past 4 centuries in the form of art and the history of ideas, reflecting Baroque garden architecture of the 17th century, German Romanticism in the 19th, Modernism of the 20th century and Land Art of the 1960s.
What you first notice about the museum – already from the outside! – is the rooftop. The so-called ‘Your panorama rainbow’, a unique circular skywalk, was added on top of the building and opened in 2011. This further increased the museum’s attendance, making it the second most visited museum in Denmark (#1 is the Louisiana Museum in Humlebæk which I have already talked about in this post).
What I especially liked was that you could also enter the roof so you could have a close-up of the skywalk. However, strangely no one besides me and an old man seemed to be interested in that. Maybe because of the strong wind that was going that day? Or maybe it’s actually not allowed to do so? But the old man was there first so I just followed him there… haha.
Aarhus might be a small city and there might not be a lot that one can do there, but there are still many great places to go if you are interested in experiencing some culture. The ARoS it not just a museum that displays contemporary art which is sometimes thought to be crazy and one that ‘every schoolkid could do’ but it has exhibitions from various kinds of art genres (at least at the moment!). Despite the fact that many #Aarhus2017 events are on the weekend or at least not happening on a Monday evening I was not really able to see live events, but the installations that I saw were really great and I’d recommend anyone who is planning a trip to Denmark to go to Aarhus and see for themselves.