Originally a residential home and private estate, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is today one of the world’s most soul and eye pleasing museums, truly in a class of its own.
The founder of the museum, Knud W. Jensen, was a renaissance man – an art lover, enthusiast and entrepreneur. In his search for a property to fulfil his dream of opening a small museum of modern Danish art, he approached author Karen Blixen in 1953 in an attempt to purchase some acres of her estate, Rungstedlund, 25 km north of Copenhagen. But Blixen turned him down. “Is there such a thing as modern art?” she questioned.
Love at first sight
One autumn day in 1954, Knud W. Jensen, accompanied by his dog, climbed the fence to an old abandoned garden by the coast north of Copenhagen and found a place he immediately fell in love with – a forlorn white villa with a gardener’s lodge, stables, coach houses, a greenhouse, pheasant pens, a lake, tennis courts, and a wilderness of fruit orchards and exotic hardwood trees. The mansion, called Louisiana, was a place of rare scenic quality.
The villa had been erected in 1855 by Master of the Royal Hunt Alexander Brun on land originally belonging to Krogerup Manor and situated near an old privateer’s harbour with slipways and gun emplacements, which had been built in 1814 as a fortification against an enemy (the British) who never returned. Rather than becoming a harbour for the intended 100 gunboats, the estate became home to Alexander Brun, who married no less than three times, each time to a woman named Louise – a popular name at the time, presumably – hence the name of the mansion.
In tune with nature
A man of means, Knud W. Jensen purchased the mansion and its parkland estate to create his museum. He decided to keep the “lovely name,” as he called it, “Louisiana.”
Architects Jørgen Bo and Wilhelm Wohlert were commissioned to convert the mansion into a museum, with the idea that art should be experienced unpretentiously in a homelike environment. The dream came true and the museum opened in 1958.
Over the past 55 years, the museum’s collections have grown to over 3000 works and visitors experience a unique balance between landscape, architecture and art. Despite several expansions to the museum of architectural marvels, both above and below ground, visitors to the museum still pass through the old mansion itself.
Once inside you’re welcomed by a wonderful world of contemporary art in its many forms, from video art to photo installation. There are modernist masterpieces by artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and Alexander Calder, all of which entertain a dialogue with nature – the sunlight, scenery, breeze and the crashing waves.
Knud W. Jensen’s original idea of creating a small museum of modern Danish art has grown into a place of international stature, but has retained its sense of grace, naturalness and openness, which leads many to call Louisiana “the world’s most beautiful museum”.