Copenhagen Art Week: A playground for art lovers

Interview with Festival Director Pernille Sander

It is that time of year. In a matter of few days Copenhagen will start vibrating with people across the whole city, all with one thing in common: they take part in a huge celebration of art in all its diversity. The entire city becomes a playground for art lovers, from leading institutions and galleries to ambitious fairs, new experimental exhibition spaces and the ever changing public space. Three words can sum it all up: Copenhagen Art Week. Taking place from August 24 to September 3, 2017, the yearly event Copenhagen Art Week invites everyone to experience the wide scope of contemporary art. We met up with Festival Director Pernille Sander to talk about Copenhagen Art Week, how it all started back in 2013 and where they are at today.

Nástio Mosquito, Respectable Thief-Centrale Fies, 2016. Photo: Alessandro Sala

Can you elaborate on the history of Copenhagen Art Week, how it got started and its particular DNA?
Cph Art Week began five years ago when kunsten.nu – a web platform for contemporary art – decided to start a ‘live version’ of the magazine. At that time there was a focus on marketing all the museums, galleries and art fairs on one platform. We still do that but our DNA or trademark if you prefer, has developed and is now a widely known channel for contemporary art in the entire city.

Copenhagen Art Week took place for the first time in 2013. How has the festival developed since then?
During the last three years I have been leading the festival, we have worked more strategically in three directions. Firstly, we have collaborated with a wide range of art institutions where we showcase exhibitions and events. Secondly, at Cph Art Week we have developed a significant presence in public spaces in order to create new and exciting places where people and art can meet. And lastly we contribute to strengthening the art scene through networks, workshops, and inviting international curators and so on. And we join the city and art together with exhibitions on public transport and numerous art tours across galleries, fairs, museums and project rooms.

We are also an umbrella organization that can facilitate collaboration – without being tied to a single institution. This means that we are able to collaborate with no strings attached.

Taking place in Copenhagen with its thriving art scene – with several fairs and events throughout the year – how does Copenhagen Art Week integrate with and challenge the environment in which it is staged?
This year there are close to 80 participating art institutions – the most ever! We try to develop the art week continuously and create new initiatives that artists can be involved in and benefit from.

I am very aware of how we can contribute and promote the extensive contemporary art scene we have here in Copenhagen – and how we can strengthen the way we communicate about art, as well as create international attention. For example, part of our obligation to the Copenhagen Council is to create an international platform so that Copenhagen becomes known as a city that can offer a very diverse and dynamic art scene.


Nástio Mosquito, Respectable Thief-Centrale Fies, 2016. Photo: Alessandro Sala

Who is your main target group, and how do you seek to create synergy between major and minor players on the art scene as well as audience and art professionals alike?
Our primary target groups are all the art institutions across the city. At the same time we use public spaces in the city itself and our partners such as the Metro and the public transport company Movia play an important role in the programme.

One of our trademarks is collaboration; we connect different players across the art scene and art institutions to provide new experiences. Every year for example, we facilitate the meeting of these groups so they can – together with us – decide what is going to take place during Cph Art Week. This year for instance there will be four days of bike tours to different artist-run spaces in Copenhagen where we invite a number of art professionals.

Copenhagen Art Week is collaborating with a wide range of contributors, making up the vast and dynamic programme including exhibitions, concerts, events, talks, and performances. How is each event developed and curated?
We decide upon a theme each year and then we cooperate with as many people as possible to bring this theme to life. This is an excellent way of communicating about an artistic genre that many people may find difficult to understand.

Each year we develop new ways to showcase the theme – last year we initiated what we call ArtBar in cooperation with Copenhagen Contemporary (CC) and it was incredibly successful. This year we have the ArtBar of course but also a large event at VEGA and the Central Library. This way we get a chance to introduce the theme to a large number of people.


This year’s theme is SOUND & VISION. How do you put the connections between sound and image into play during Copenhagen Art Week, and what do this year’s events reveal about the current trends and the market?
Every year we focus on a theme that reflects an area of contemporary art that we want to promote and showcase through events and storytelling – this year for example, we want to show how artists work with sound and musicians work with images.

This year’s theme looks at the way many artists work in reality. They often change between genres and work in painting one day and with music or sculpture the next. We are proud to have as our visiting artist Nástio Mosquito from Angola. He is a future star of the art world and a multimedia performer known for his performances with sound and visuals.

Is there something that you are looking particularly forward to in this year’s program?
Personally I am looking forward to our tours where we have boat trips in the evenings, bike trips around the city as well as walking tours. On these trips, guests can visit different project rooms, museums and galleries that they may not have experienced before.

And there is a number of exhibitions that I’m looking forward to as well – Nikolaj Kunsthal is one of them, they show a large installation by Eske Kath and Oh Land called The Ship.

The opening of Cph Art Week at Vega will also be something special. Usually we have an opening together with SMK Fridays but this year is the first time we will be opening on our own, with concerts and performance the whole evening and DJ’s and more. I’m really looking forward to it all!


About Copenhagen Art Week
Cph Art Week’s objective is to affirm Copenhagen as a metropolis for high quality contemporary art, and to communicate it to a wide public audience, welcoming both both regional, national and international visitors. With an ambition to accommodate artistic projects and formats that ranges from mainstream to experimental art, Cph Art Week strives to assemble events and activities that engage the whole scene. As a supplement, Cph Art Week develops every years, a series of co-produced special events and collaborations that take place in public space as well as in the institutions and on new partnering venues.

Cph Art Week is initiated by the web magazine kunsten.nu.

Date: August 24 – September 3, 2017
Website: Copenhagen Art Week