Denmark's New Triennial Rises to the Occasion

BY Katrina Kufer / Apr 16 2017 / 14:00 PM

The inaugural ARoS Triennial for contemporary art launches in Aarhus, Denmark, the European Capital of Culture 2017

Denmark's New Triennial Rises to the Occasion
Photography by Jesper Palermo
Bjarke Ingels. SKUM. 2016

Since 8 April, the Danish city of Aarhus has been dominated by fresh commissions and large-scale installations for the first edition of ARoS Triennial. Headed by Erlend G. Høyersten, director of ARoS Aarhus Art Museum and founding director of the triennial, the event is entitled THE GARDEN – End of Times; Beginning of Times. It explores how humanity has depicted and altered nature through its subjective perspective through three sections: The Past, The Present and The Future. While the openings are staggered between April and early June, here is what to watch out for as the works unfold.

The Past focuses on a 400-year span of time that outlines the relationship to nature from baroque and neo-classicism to rococo, through to the effect of modernity on nature up to the 1960s. This section contextualises the overarching theme of the triennial and can be seen throughout the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum in the form of 100 diverse works by the largest portion of artists including Edvard Munch, Paul Gaugin and Robert Smithson. Visitors to this part of the event will also be able to view the institution’s notable Danish art collection, including the rainbow panoramic work by conceptual artist Olafur Eliasson.

The Present, which won’t be revealed until 3 June, promises to consider nature in the context of metropolises, therefore will be located predominantly in industrial sites to emphasise the movement of goods and people. Highlights will include: Fujiko Nakaya’s immersive fog installation which will appear from the roof of the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum; Superflex’s Investment Bank Flowerpot / Deutsche Bank Marijuana, 3D models of the corporate headquarters of 20 of the world’s largest investment banks, which will serve as flower pots for hallucinogenic plants; Cyprien Gaillard’s retiling of a randomly selected bar in Aarhus using traditional terrazzo with mother-of-pearl from locally caught oysters, linking the space to life forms in Danish waters; and Elmgreen & Dragset’s Cruising Pavilion, which will stage a social conflict that speaks to tensions between public and private spaces, as well as what is considered normal and deviating behaviour.

Finally, The Future (also launching 3 June) will feature installations in natural landscapes such as the forest and beaches along four kilometres of coastline to comment on ecological change and delve into the beginning of an anthropogenic age. While many works will interact directly with the environment – at times seamlessly within it as with Meg Webster’s Concave Room for Bees, where she will plant native flora – other highlights include Doug Aitken’s live relational piece that embraces the contrast between natural and manufactured environments through therapeutic Anger Rooms, where visitors become participants as they are invited to destroy their surroundings, and SKUM by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), a cloud-like pavilion made of inflatable material illuminated by LED lights.

ARoS Triennial runs until 10 September. For more information visit