Louisiana presented a thematic display, which focused on the artistic movements and the artists that shaped the beginning and the early history of the collection.
In the East Wing you will find a selection from the historical part of the Louisiana Collection, centring on some of its core areas – European and American art from the post-war years, Constructivism and Pop Art. Each cluster of works told the story of how the collection came into being and grew over the years.
The Louisiana opened in 1958 with a collection of modern Danish art, made up mainly of founder Knud W. Jensen’s private collection. Just a few years later, the museum changed course to become an international Museum of Modern Art, particularly after Jensen encountered international art during a visit to documenta II in Kassel, 1959. From that point on, the Louisiana showed international art in changing exhibitions and by acquiring works for its collection.
FROM POST-WAR ART TO POP
In the early years without government support, funds for acquisitions could be raised only in exceptional cases. In the 1960s, fundamental acquisitions were made possible largely by grants from the New Carlsberg Foundation, whose generous support of the museum continues to this day. This is particularly true for works by classic European modernists, such as Henry Moore, Alexander Calder and Jean Arp, who all have sculptures in the Park; Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, whose works can be viewed in the North Wing; as well as Germaine Richier, Jean Dubuffet and Picasso.
The Louisiana Collection has a starting point in the years around 1950. Building an international collection, the museum put a high priority on representing the two international movements that include Danish artists. One was the artist group Cobra (COpenhagen, BRussels, Amsterdam), whose driving force was the Danish artist Asger Jorn. The other was the group of Constructivist artists around Galerie Denise René in Paris, with which the Danish painter Richard Mortensen and the Danish sculptor Robert Jacobsen were affiliated in the years after World War II.
Two major donations have greatly strengthened the Louisiana’s collection of Constructivist art. In 1986, the museum received some 200 postwar American and European works from the Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation in New York. Later, the American art collector Celia Ascher donated a distinguished collection of early Russian and European Constructivist drawings and gouaches.
American Pop Art is an important chapter in the history of 20th-century art. The Louisiana is home to an exceptional collection of Pop Art, centring on Andy Warhol. In the 1960s, Louisiana founder Knud W. Jensen was intent on making the museum a window on the world, not least on America, which at the time was a long way from Europe. Ever since, the museum has had a special relationship with American art, which has become a cornerstone of the collection.
In the 1970s, the museum’s economy improved, when the Louisiana was included under the Museum Act and qualified for public funding. The museum subsequently acquired works by artists that had long been on our wish list but were beyond our means. Distinctive acquisitions were made, particularly paintings by American artists, including Pop art masters Jim Dine, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.