What do we research at ARKEN?

Rewilding the Museum


ARKEN and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art invite to the conference Rewilding the Museum. This conference focuses on the role of the museum in an ecological crisis and will take place at ARKEN and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen from the 1 to 2 June 2022. Read more about the conference and how you can contribute here.


Juliana Cerqueira Leite, Por Um Sopro de Fúria e Esperanca

The research project

In a time where Anthropocene discourse collapses the distinction between nature and culture, the artistic gaze ranges beyond the gallery to treat the dominant planetary condition as authored or impacted by human activities. From rock strata to ice cores, wastelands to wilderness, we have come to understand the earth itself as an archive of inscriptions — as a collection to be studied, inventoried, conserved, or restored; to be acquired, exhibited, and perhaps de-accessioned. This perspective posits an expanded curatorial mandate beyond the walls of the museum: the earth as a total exhibition.

ARKEN explores this in collaboration with The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Visual Arts in a research project funded by the New Carlsberg Foundation.

Philosopher and curator Dehlia Hannah is affiliated with the two institutions in a three-year project that began in April 2021. She explores how the environmental imaginaries have material consequences, as images of ‘nature’ structure how we inhabit the world. In a moment where our environmental imaginaries are increasingly contested, this project examines how contemporary artistic practices occupy fraught conceptual and material territory. If the ancient concept of the museum as the ‘home of the muses’ is to be updated to our present times, we must follow the muses in their wandering beyond the gallery space, off-site, and into difficult terrain, as they inspire artists working with the detritus of modernity, in the great plastic garbage patches in the ocean, urban sewage treatment plants, burning forests, and oil palm plantations.

Conversely, such an expanded curatorial mandate casts a critical gaze upon other forms of technê that seek to transform the earth — works of infrastructure, geoengineering, exclusion zones, shutdowns, blackouts and projects of rewilding. Rewilding, as a practice of environmental restoration, seeks to restore the functioning of ecosystems to a wild or natural state. The practice involves complex retrospective and prospective constructions of nature, involving varying degrees of human involvement. Without distinguishing between modes of artifice practiced by the arts and sciences, Rewilding the Museum examines how ‘environments’ are represented, mediated, and produced within and beyond the gallery today.


Olafur Eliasson, Atlantis, 2003. ARKEN Museum og Modern Art

From a Grain of Dust to Cosmos

Faced with climate crisis and speculations about humankind’s possible extinction, how can we understand ‘the human’? What are the relations between humans, nature and technology – now and in the future?

ARKEN investigates this in the research project From a Grain of Dust to Cosmos. The human in change read through new works in ARKEN’s collection, which is supported by the Danish Ministry of Culture’s committee for research.

Aesthetics and culture researcher Anne Kølbæk Iversen will work at ARKEN for six months as a postdoctoral researcher in order to investigate how – in a time characterized by climate crisis and a continued development of bio- and gene technology – there is an increased interest in what can be termed as human.

The project takes as its point of departure artworks from ARKEN’s collection by Nanna Debois Buhl, Tue Greenfort, Astrid Myntekær, Patricia Piccinini, Lea Porsager and Amalie Smith among others. In focus is how the works actualize relations between human and non-human forms of perception, experience and agency.

Maybe art can help us understand ‘the human’ as something at once biological, cognitive, cultural and ethical? And maybe art can inspire us to reconsider on which temporal scale we measure our own existence in the world – a geological, biological, historical, technological or mythological?

The project will be presented in an exhibition of ARKEN’s collection in 2020, and the research will be published in ARKEN Bulletin.


Astrid Myntekær, Mana Stash, 2016 (detail). Photo: David Stjernholm

THE MODEL: Palle Nielsen

Play, participation and relational aesthetics are central concepts in ARKEN’s research-based online publication on Palle Nielsen’s reinterpretation of The Model at ARKEN in 2014. This pioneering artwork – a gigantic playground for children – was installed for the first time at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1968. In connection with its reappearance at ARKEN, The Model 1968/2014 became part of ARKEN’s collection and is documented in this publication.

What can you read about?

Three new texts approach The Model from the perspective of the curator, the art historian and the play researcher. What kind of participation occurs in The Model today? How has the idea of utopia changed since 1968? And what are the sensuous forces of play unleashed by The Model that generate its creative and formative potential as a playground? The publication also includes an interview with Palle Nielsen, as well as several of his own previously unpublished and reprinted texts. Finally, the publication includes the first comprehensive biography of the artist.

What can you experience?

The online publication documents The Model as an exhibition with a wealth of pictures taken by professional and amateur photographers, as well as from the social media.

The exhibition and online publication have been generously supported by Nordea-fonden.

Download the publication here
(Best viewed in Adobe Acrobat)

“The keyword for me is community. Community is an alternative to the commercial market, and The Model provides a framework for community. When children dress up and paint their faces, they have the chance to try out different roles and enter relationships with each other. I want to create an extended social aesthetic, where children, teenagers and adults create a cultural base for themselves by being together physically.”

Palle Nielsen

Participation: dogma and field of potentials

MitTDC, Spotify, Viasat, Netflix, HBO. These are just some of the services the modern media consumer makes use of. We watch TV ‘on demand’ when we don’t happen to be busy on the social media – ‘sharing’, ‘liking’, ‘blogging’, ‘tweeting’ or ’instagramming’. And when we go to the theatre or the museum we are positioned more and as ‘users’. The viewer, the listener, the exhibition visitor, the reader has become a ‘particïpant’ – an active co-creator of content – and the participatory principle is a structuring element for both culture consumption and culture production.

This was the background for ARKEN’s research project on participatory culture, which is supported by the Research Committee of the Ministry of Culture (2014-2016). With this project, we wanted to reveal the potentials and challenges of participation as a principle and to explore how participation is articulated within different discourses, and how it occurs in the museum and in contemporary art practices.

The project has resulted in ARKEN Bulletin: The Art of Taking Part, vol. 7, 2017. In addition ARKEN has held the seminar Participation: Seminar on art, subjectivity and knowledge in a culture of participation, on 19 June 2015.


Karoline H Larsen, Collective Strings, 2015. Vejleåparken, Ishøj, Denmark. Photo: Mathias Vejerslev

University of Oxford

Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. Photo: John Cairns

ARKEN is working with one of the world’s finest universities, University of Oxford, on an internship programme for their art students (the Professional Practice Programme). The programme enables students to apply for work placements at ARKEN, to work with areas such as exhibition planning and design, communication projects or teaching.

Best practice

ARKEN was invited to work with University of Oxford as a professional museum organisation to strengthen students’ own artistic practice and further develop their understanding of ”best practice” at a modern art musuem. Meanwhile, the programme also gives ARKEN the opportunity to get an insight into the aesthetic, methodical and artistic problems that students are working on, and to exchange experiences and specific knowledge that can help raise the further development of our exhibitions, communication and research.

Read more here about University of Oxford’s internship programme for art students

Tools for Change

ARKEN Museum of Modern Art and the cultural history museum Den Gamle By (‘The Old Town’) have with the support of the Danish Agency for Culture been studying what art and cultural history museums can learn from each other’s different work methods concerning communication in terms of audience development, organisation development and change management.

We have ‘moved into’ each other’s institutions, we have followed each other’s projects and we have asked constructive and critical questions about each other’s norms, strategies and visions. The project has led to insightful conversations and understandings of the particular strengths of each institution, what we have in common, and how we draw on each other’s strengths to develop the museum institution as part of a community so it can benefit more citizens.

Fundamental Questions

With this project we set out to investigate three questions:

What does a meaningful visit to the museum consist of for new target groups?

How can cultural institutions work in order to embrace new target groups?

What can museums of art and cultural history learn from each other’s different approaches to the inclusion of users?

The Citizenship Project

In the last four years and in conjunction with nine other musuems and cultural insitutions, ARKEN has been studying how we can work with and contribute towards cultural citizenship in exhibitions, communication and organisational development.

Are art museums for everyone?

The title of this research work is ”Museums and cultural institutions as spaces for citizens”, which from 2009-2013 was used by international researchers as a basis for studying teaching and exhibition cases. The project involved a number of learning days, where project participants from ten institutions took part in skills development and theoretical and practical learning processes with museums’ and cultural institutions’ democratic potential as a focal point. The project was supported by the Danish Agency for Culture.

Book: Rum for medborgerskab (Space for citizenship)

In 2014 the Citizenship project was documented in the ”Room for Citizenship” anthology, with articles from international researchers and project participants. The book can be purchased in the ARKEN SHOP or can be read online (articles in Danish, Norwegian and English).


Museum visitors participating in the Thukral & Tagra installation in the exhibition INDIA : ART NOW, which was ARKEN's case in the Citizenship Project


DREAM (Danish Research Centre on Education and Advanced Media Materials), ARKEN and a number of other institutions and companies have been awarded DKK 23.5 million for a 6-year research project on the significance of digital skills on creativity and innovation.

Creativity and innovation

If Denmark is to become a leader within creativity and innovation, we have to look beyond our working lives. This is the thought-process behind a major new research and development project, to which the Danish Council for Strategic Research has awarded DKK 23.5 million. New thought processes and ways of doing things do not start in companies and organisations, but in people, and often begin outside the working life.

Web 2.0

An important area is young people’s use of so-called web 2.0 services, such as online social networks and mobile games. Here they create and share user content, and practice combining words, pictures, numbers and text to create fun and alternative expressions.

We still know far too little about the prerequisites for creativity and innovation. The project will systematise the new forms of digital creativity that young people are developing in relation to musuems and science centres. These environments often provide other ways of learning, and this is what the project will investigate, as well as developing new digital services and ways of learning with the parties involved.


Business partners

The project is headed by DREAM, a collaboration between the University of Southern Denmark and Roskilde University Centre. On a national scale, the researchers will work with Eksperimentarium, the National Gallery of Denmark, ARKEN and the Danish Media Museum. A number of companies are also involved, including Zentropa Interaction, Apple, Enalyzer and Unwire.

Creativity and innovation attract major attention in every knowledge society. The project is involving a number of international partners with experience in this area, such as MIT, London School of Economics, Creative Industries Faculty Faculty at Queensland University and London Knowledge Lab.

From creative production to educational innovation, the project helps systematise our knowledge about how young people’s creative production and interaction can develop advanced digital skills – and what might hinder such development. An important goal is to develop new, digital services, user methods and organisation formats that, when combined, are solid enough for others to benefit from the project’s experiences. The prerequisites for creativity are probably created outside normal insitutional contexts; but for creativity to become educational innovation, the results must be of use to schools, companies and organisations.

The Art Museum of the Future

What does the future art museum look like? How will the museum institution remain an active player in the cultural landscape of the future? Are Danish museums abreast of cultural development? Which specific experiences can the museums provide amidts information society’s extensive range of information and entertainment offerings?

ARKEN has been researching these questions in conjunction with Danish museums and a number of external parties, such as the Getty Research Institute, Getty Leadership Institute and LACMA in Los Angeles, the Courtauld Institute and the Tate in London, as well as Copenhagen University, Århus University etc. The study is supported by the Danish Agency for Culture. The study was documented in a report (in Danish) and a seminar at ARKEN in September 2010.

Is the institution under pressure?

Museums and their surroundings have changed significantly in the last 20 years. The movement from mono to multiculture, new teaching methods, changes in media habits and consumer patterns together with democratisation trends that put pressure on traditional hierarchies and authorities, are just some of the factors that place new demands on museums. Ever-changing conditions require museums to update their self-understanding.

The study’s process

The study focuses on the art museum, but has a cross-functional aim and therefore also deals with the potential in innovative collaboration across museum categories. Museum management, research and communication are particular focal points. Another important point is the need to re-think the museum experience itself, based on an increased focus on user-driven innovation.

The study uses the museum institution’s unique position between theory and practice to provide a result that combines a theoretically-founded cultural analysis with the museum’s practical experiences. In order to achieve such a synergy, the study is including both university researchers and museum people, both nationally and internationally.

”In many ways contemporary art depicts current trends that we have to relate to – also as museums. An experience economy in rapid development, a globalised society, a changing world view.”

Director Christian Gether