Modern Art in Aarhus – ARoS

While in Denmark last year, we spent three days in Aarhus (pronounced Oar-hoos), which is the second largest city in Denmark, with a population of about 315,000. While there, we wanted to explore ARoS, the Aarhus art museum (Kunstmuseum in Danish). Since Denmark is crazy expensive, we booked an apartment through Airbnb which seemed to be the more reasonable option. The location itself was great, as it was fairly central and walkable to shops, a grocery store, and the museum. In fact, we had a great view of the museum from the apartment. The museum is the big cube-like brick building with the rainbow on top:

View of the colourful ARoS Art Museum

View of the colourful ARoS Art Museum

The Rainbow Panorama on top of the building was created by artist Olafur Eliasson and installed in 2011. You can, in fact walk around inside of it, and it gives a wonderful (though tinted) 360-degree panoramic view of the city. It’s best to step outside the rainbow and onto the open rooftop for clearer views:

The pretty city of Aarhus as viewed from the museum rooftop.

The pretty city of Aarhus as viewed from the museum rooftop.

Inside the rainbow, you might experience differing temperatures since some colours absorb more of the sun’s heat while others are cooler, and the green panels were especially pleasing to numerous ladybugs perched on the exterior of the glass. We found we couldn’t spend too much time in the panorama though, since the colours started to mess with our eyesight a bit. It’s a really unique addition though.

Hubby posing inside the rainbow panorama.

Hubby posing inside the rainbow panorama.

As for the art housed inside the museum itself? Well, as all modern art museums have, there was a wide variety of things to see. Everything from paintings, sculptures, furniture, and films, to interactive or immersive experiences.

Though, I still remember the one time Mark and I went to the Tate Modern in London, and there was a pyramid on the floor made from stacked oranges. And the artist’s description of the piece invited the viewer to “interact” with the sculpture by taking an orange, thereby becoming part of the art itself and transforming it. So, we each took an orange, but when we tried to take a photo of ourselves holding the oranges as proof of our interaction, the security guard stopped us because photos weren’t allowed. Even though it was just a piece of fruit that, let’s face it, anyone with enough time and oranges could stack into a pyramid. So, as we left the building with our pieces of “art,” now magically transformed back into simple produce, we were left with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths over the whole experience. (Pun totally intended.) Now anytime we see indications of an exhibit that’s immersive or interactive, we remember the orange debacle.

ARoS had a few interactive/immersive exhibits, and thankfully, none of them involved a pile of fruit. Our favourite one was called “Your Atmospheric Colour Atlas.” The exhibit was behind a set of doors and marked with a rather lengthy warning sign listing all the people who shouldn’t enter. If you were claustrophobic, had a heart condition, breathing problems, seizures, etc. etc., you shouldn’t enter. It all sounded very dire and scary, but the warning was only because the exhibit used lights and fog. We opened the door and stepped into the large room. The ceiling had sort of honeycombed white plastic covering it, lit with fluorescent lights covered in filters of varying colours. The fog being pumped in was so thick that you could only see maybe a foot ahead. As you walked around slowly, the coloured lighting changed depending on where you stood. Purple, green, blue, indigo, turquoise, magenta…even white, if you stood just in the right spot where the majority of the colours blended together. Because of the thick fog, you couldn’t see anyone else in the room unless they were standing close to you. You would first see the hint of movement, then the outline of other people as they walked toward or away from you. It was an interesting play of sensory deprivation and we really enjoyed it. Pictures, unfortunately, can’t capture the coolness of this exhibit, but we tried:

Loved this exhibit!

Loved this exhibit!

Your Atmospheric Colour Atlas was also created by Olafur Eliasson, the designer of the Rainbow Panorama.

I’ll be honest though: we don’t really get a lot of modern art. Some of it is fun, clever, disturbing, dark, strange, etc. The art at ARoS was no exception; it ran the gamut. But they had some pretty amazing and diverse exhibits when we were there. One of the visiting exhibits was Wes Lang’s studio. For those who don’t know, he’s an American artist who does a lot of American biker culture art – roses, pin-up girls, skulls, guitars, graffiti, basically anything that makes you think “that would look great as a tattoo.” Not really my kind of art, though I could see why he would have a large cult following.

One interesting art piece from Japanese artist Mariko Mori, was a matte glass monolith fitted with LED lights controlled by a computer, which was linked to the Super Kamiokande Observatory at Tokyo University. The lights flickered and changed colour every time a star died, or when neutrinos moved in space. It was ethereal, curious, somber, and aesthetically appealing all at once.

I’m really not familiar with many contemporary artists, but there is one name I know, and that’s Ron Mueck. He creates sculptures of people that are intensely detailed and realistic. Some of them are life-sized, while others are oversized. I really like his work and was quite happy to find out that one of his famous pieces, entitled “Boy,” was housed at the ARoS gallery. I had to get my picture taken in front of it, just to show the scale:

Isn't this cool? I just wish there were more of Mueck's work here.

Isn’t this cool? I just wish there were more of Mueck’s work here.

You can see more of Mueck’s work all over the Internet, but the National Gallery of Canada also has photos showing some of Mueck’s creative process and prototypes.

The ARoS museum is definitely worth checking out. One big tip, that we found out too late, is that the museum is open until 10pm on Wednesdays. With most stores and attractions closing around 5-6pm, it’s nice to know that there are a few places with later hours. For more information, check out the ARoS museum website.

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