A Visit to ARoS – the Aarhus Museum of Modern Art

While in Denmark, we spent three days in Aarhus (pronounced Oar-hoos). Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark, with a population of about 315,000. While there, we wanted to explore ARoS, the Aarhus Museum of Modern Art (ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum). ARoS boasts one of the largest collections of modern art in Northern Europe. And, with 10 floors of art installations covering 20,700 square meters of space, there’s a lot to see!

Since Denmark is crazy expensive, we booked an apartment through AirBnB, which was the more reasonably priced 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:

ARoS Art museum Denmark

View of the colourful ARoS Art Museum

ARoS was originally established way back in 1859, making it the oldest public art museum in Denmark outside Copenhagen. The name of the museum comes from the original Old Danish name of Aarhus – Áros. The capitalized letters also spell out the Latin word for art – ars. So while it’s a cool play on words, the letters themselves don’t actually stand for anything.

The museum moved buildings four times over the years, finally settling into its current location in 2004.

Artist Olafur Eliasson created The Rainbow Panorama on top of the building 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:

ARoS Art museum rainbow panorama Denmark

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

Inside the rainbow, we experienced differing temperatures, since some of the coloured panels absorbed more of the sun’s heat, while other sections were cooler. The green panels were especially pleasing to numerous ladybugs perched on the exterior of the glass.

Aros museum panorama pink

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.

ARoS Rainbow Panorama view from inside

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. One exhibit 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 both took an orange from the pile. But when we tried to photograph 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.

As we left the building with our pieces of “art,” now magically transformed back into simple produce, we had 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.

“Your Atmospheric Colour Atlas” was our favourite interactive exhibit there. Before you entered the exhibit, there was a rather lengthy warning sign listing all the people who shouldn’t enter. If you suffered from claustrophobia, had a heart condition, breathing problems, seizures, etc. etc., then you shouldn’t enter the exhibit.

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:

Your atmospheric colour atlas by Olafur Eliasson

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

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.

Japanese artist Mariko Mori created a really unique art piece: a matte glass monolith fitted with computer-controlled LED lights. The computer connected 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 incredibly detailed and hyper-realistic human sculptures. Some of his sculptures are life-sized, and others are over-sized. I really like his work, so I was thrilled to discover that “Boy,” one of Mueck’s most well-known pieces, was on display here. I had to stand in front of it, just to show the scale:

Ron Mueck's "Boy" Denmark

The National Gallery of Canada has several photos showing some of Mueck’s creative process and prototypes. His pieces are always poignant and thought-provoking, and I love that you can walk around them to view them from all angles.

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 in Aarhus, it’s nice that there are a few places with later hours. For more information, check out the ARoS museum website.

Getting There

Address: Aros Allé 2, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

Public transportation:

By train: The Aarhus Museum of Modern Art is a 10 minute walk from the train station.

By bus: The museum is also a 10 minute walk from the bus station. There are several bus stops located along the streets near the museum.

Hours of Operation:

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 10.00 – 17.00
Wednesday: 10.00 – 22.00
Thursday: 10.00 – 17.00
Friday: 10.00 – 17.00
Saturday: 10.00 – 17.00
Sunday: 10.00 – 17.00

Where to Stay

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