History of ARKEN

With the opening of ARKEN in 1996, Danish and international art came to Copenhagen’s "Vestegn" district.
History of ARKEN

Photo: Thomas Grøndahl

ARKEN first opened its doors to the public in March 1996. Behind the opening lay several years of political work to turn the area south of Copenhagen into a significant part of Danish cultural life.

Before ARKEN

ARKEN is in many ways a natural part of Copenhagen’s development. Already back at the start of the city’s revival in the 1960’s the area south of the capital was becoming an established suburb for Copenhagen’s inner city residents.

The result was a rapid rise in the population in the municipalities of Copenhagen’s “Vestegn” during the last half of the 20th century.

A trend that was further strengthened by the rise in immigrants in Denmark at that time. The municipalities south

of Copenhagen became popular residential areas for people of particularly Kurdish, Turkish and Pakistani origin. For the first time ever, larger multicultural districts began to form in Denmark.

International art in “Vestegnen”

As an extension of Danish cultural politics, it seemed natural to set up a cultural institution that would give the growing population at “Vestegnen” a chance to experience important national and international art in the local area.

This goal led to the creation of ARKEN through the political system and to one of the biggest Danish cultural investments in the latter half of the 20th century.

ARKEN became a venture of international proportions.

Significant milestones


Søren Robert Lund wins the architectural competition for the creation of a new art museum in Copenhagen’s “Vestegn”.


The name ARKEN is chosen from an open competition.

ARKEN opens on 15 March with exhibitions from artists who included Emil Nolde and Per Kirkeby, attracting over 283,000 visitors.


Christian Gether is employed as Museum Director.


ARKEN enters a 4-year results contract with the county of Copenhagen.


ARKEN achieves state recognition.


Visitor number 1 million at ARKEN.


Research publication ARKEN BULLETIN is published for the first time.


ARKEN awards its Art Prize for the first time. The Prize is donated by Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs’ Philanthropic Foundation.


ARKEN totals 2 million visitors. The museum is transferred from the county of Copenhagen to the state.


The new ARKEN opens with a total of 5000 m2 exhibition space.


Opening of large, new entrance, a new sculpture hall and new teaching premises donated by Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs’ Philanthropic Foundation.

ARKEN opens its doors to a total of 13,500 m2.


ARKEN opens one of Europe’s most significant collections with works from British artist Damian Hirst, thanks to a donation from The Merla Art Foundation.


ARKEN receives a generous donation for the DETLEFS-HALL from Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs’ Philanthropic Foundation – a total of nine works by German artist Anselm Reyle.

A major donation from the A.P.Møller and Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller’s Foundation for General Purposes will enable the creation of the Island of Art.


The Art Island opens and ARKEN reveales its new landmark, Powerless Structures, Fig.101, 2012 by Elmgreen & Dragset.


ARKEN celebrates its 25th anniversary with a large exhibition showing highlights from the collection.


Marie Nipper is employed as Museum Director.