When Louisiana opened in 1958, it was actually intended to be a museum of modern Danish art. For several years, the museum’s founder, Knud W. Jensen, had collected works of the Danish modernists, and he wanted to present them in Humlebæk.

But as early as one year later, at the large Documenta II exhibition in Kassel, he was struck by what he called a “Documenta shock.” Jensen decided immediately to change course and now saw it as a clear mission to promote international art in Denmark.

Although for several years the museum continued to acquire works by Danish artists, after a period the focus shifted solely towards the Danish artists who had an international career – Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby, for example. Much later, from around the turn of the millennium, this focus widened again as Danish contemporary art came to play an ever more important role internationally.

AFTER 1945

The Louisiana Collection’s point of departure are the first years after the Second World War. At that time, Danish artists Robert Jacobsen and Richard Mortensen moved to Paris and came into contact with like-minded artists who are now represented in the museum: Vasarely, Herbin, Dewasne, Albers, Soto and other Constructivists such as Rickey and Calder.

Two large donations have bolstered Louisiana's collection of Constructivist art significantly: In 1986, the museum received from The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation in New York some 200 American and European works from the period after 1945.

And from Celia Ascher, also of New York, Louisiana received a collection of studies containing drawings and gouaches from early Russian and European Constructivism.

The COBRA movement, founded 1948 as a collaboration between Danish, Dutch and Belgian artists, is represented by Jorn, Heerup and other Danish COBRA members, as well as by Appel, Alechinsky, Corneille and Lucebert.

Other aspects of the museum’s collection of European art from the 1950s have been expanded with sculptures by Giacometti and Richier as well as works by Dubuffet, Tàpies and Bacon.

Of the European art from the 1960s, the Nouveau Réalisme movement figures prominently, with works by French, Italian and Swiss artists such as Arman, Yves Klein, Fontana, Tinguely, César and Raysse.

Several other European artists who worked in the 1960s and set a significant artistic agenda in the 1970s are also represented. These include German Joseph Beuys, Italian Mario Merz and British Richard Long.

In the early 1980s, the new “wild” painting style emerged as an international movement that spread from Italy to Germany and the US. It posed a renewed challenge for the potential of painting and reintroduced figurative and expressive modes of representation. The Italians Cucchi and Paladino; German artists such as Penck, Immendorf, Lüpertz, Baselitz, Polke, Richter and Kiefer; and the Dane Kirkeby all have important works in the Louisiana Collection.

AFTER 1945

A number of significant works have given the Louisiana Collection a certain standing in its presentation of American movements of the 1950s and 1960s such as Pop Art, Minimalism and Color Field.

Names such as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Dine and Oldenburg ensure that Pop Art has an eminent presence in the museum, while the minimalist movement is represented by Sol Lewitt, Ryman, Judd and Flavin.

The American Color Field group of painters is also well represented.
With nine large and four smaller works (most of which were donated by Marcella Louis Brenner), the museum holds a significant collection of paintings by Morris Louis, which is supplemented by works by Reinhardt, Rothko, Noland, Kelly and Stella.

The collection contains works of several significant artists of the 1960s and 1970s – Kienholz, Oppenheim and Tuttle. In addition there are significant works of the American New Image painters of the 1980s such as Salle, Fischl and Jenney.

With funding from the A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal, in 2007 Louisiana was able to acquire David Hockney’sA Closer Grand Canyon (1998). With a stroke, this 2 x 7.5 m large masterpiece placed Hockney, whose artistic career is in many ways rooted in the American tradition, at the heart of the museum’s collection.

FROM 1990

The artwork of the 1990s is well represented by pieces by Mona Hatoum, Pipilotti Rist, Sam Taylor-Wood, Sherrie Levine, Gary Hill, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley and others. The Louisiana Collection is kept up to date with acquisitions and donations so that it also reflects the latest trends and media in contemporary art.

The most recent acquisitions range across a wide variety of media and artistic expression, with works by Jonathan Meese, Julie Mehretu, Tal R, John Armleder, Thomas Demand, Wolfgang Tillmans, Olaf Breuning, Rineke Dijsktra, Superflex, Elmgreen and Dragset, Isa Genzken, Candice Breitz, Runa Islam, Jesper Just, Aernout Mik, Doug Aitken and Bill Viola, among others.

Louisiana considers it important that there is a relation between the exhibitions on display and the development of the collection. This means that many exhibitions leave their trace on the museum. This takes place through acquisitions and donations, and Louisiana depends largely on private individuals’ and foundations’ goodwill and generosity.

A large number of new acquisitions was presented together in the exhibition Illumination (2016) in the South Wing. This was the largest presentation of new works in the collection in the museum history.