Asger Jorn, Femelle interplanetaire, 1953 Olie på lærred / Oil on canvas, 100,8 x 81,5 cm Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg. Foto: Niels Fabæk

In the exhibition JORN / KIRKEBY, visitors will, for the first time, experience a painterly encounter between two of Denmark’s most influential artists who, in their various ways, have left their mark on the Danish art scene.

21 November 2020 – 5 April 2021

The exhibition draws attention to the affinities and differences of these two artists in their approach to painting and being painters. By juxtaposing works by Asger Jorn (1914–1973) and Per Kirkeby (1938–2018) under themes like unbridled painting, classicism, erotic drive, landscapes and self-presentations, their individual and unique approach to painting will appear in a clearer light – from Jorn’s intense, unrestrained abstractions to Kirkeby’s pensive and more controlled ones. 

- We hope that visitors will enjoy this meeting of masters which offers a glimpse into how painting as an expressive form continues to be a source of inspiration, fascination, and reflection for both artists and visitors, says Erlend G. Høyersten, museum director, ARoS.

Painting in focus

The primary focus of the exhibition is directed at painting and more than eighty works from ARoS’ collection of art as well as from museums, galleries, and private collections in Denmark and abroad will be on show. Several of the works have never previously been shown in a museum context.

- Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby insisted on painting and they were both anchored in artistic communities, which played a role in forming their practice. They were protagonists of a Scandinavian expressionism, but they were also, in their youth, representatives of European avant-garde currents and they helped draw attention to Northern Europe as a centre of artistic debate and innovative thinking: Jorn in the 1930s and 40s and Kirkeby in the 1960s, says curator-in-charge Jeanett Stampe, curator, ARoS.

The painterly similarities can, at a first glance, be difficult to identify. Jorn’s art is intense and unbridled and the paintings are colour-saturated and often small-scale. Kirkeby’s works are pensive, intellectual, and controlled abstractions with painterly pauses often manifested on enormous canvases. But Jorn and Kirkeby have more common features than people believe. They have, among other things, worked with a wealth of artistic expressive forms and both kept reverting to painting. Their figurative language is somewhere between abstract and figurative and painterly issues, material experiments, and specific topics engaged them both.

The father figure that Kirkeby never met

Jorn and Kirkeby never met in person, but nevertheless, there is a distinct affinity between the two artists. In a feature article in the newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad from September 2018, Per Kirkeby is quoted as saying:

I start where Jorn left off. The quote underlines the huge interest Per Kirkeby had in Asger Jorn’s art.

Moreover, there are traces of a generation-gap rebellion in the exhibition. To Kirkeby, the early 1960s were a confrontation with traditions and the painterly idiom of earlier times, enabling him to find his own standpoint. This resulted in a confrontation with the painterly father figure cut by Asger Jorn. Jorn’s position on the art scene was, in many ways, a presence that not only Kirkeby had to shake off, but which the entire generation of artists who followed in the wake of Jorn necessarily had to consider. Similarly, during his youth, Jorn had to consider and work his way out of the shadows cast by some of the powerful artistic profiles of the past.


In connection with the exhibition, ARoS will publish an extensive catalogue which, like the exhibition, centres around six themes. Selected writers with thorough knowledge of the two artists’ works were invited to dig a little deeper into each theme. The writers are Lars Morell, MA (history of ideas) and writer, Jeanett Stampe, curator-in-charge, curator, ARoS, Erik Steffensen, visual artist and writer, Teresa Østergaard Pedersen, art historian, PhD, and curator, Dorte Kirkeby Andersen, art historian and exhibition curator, and Jakob Vengberg Sevel, curator.

Press photos can be downloaded free of charge from Dropbox when citing the name of the photographer.

The exhibition is developed in close collaboration with Lars Morell, MA (history of ideas), who is extremely knowledgeable about both Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby and has written several books about the two artists.

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