The genesis of an art museum
– The Holstebro Cultural Model
In the 1960s, the town of Holstebro was enjoying a period of growth after the stagnation of the 1950s. The population rose as companies and educational institutions moved to the small urban community. Under the leadership of Mayor Kaj K. Nielsen and Municipal Director Jens Johansen, a visionary and in many ways unconventional development plan was formulated to make Holstebro an even more attractive place.
One of the most important focus areas was culture. Among the far-reaching initiatives of those years was the establishment of the music school and Holstebro Hall (now Holstebro Music Theatre), the linking of the Odin Theatre with the town, and in particular, the creation of Holstebro Kunstmuseum.
A fruitful collaboration
In 1965, the municipality also began what was to prove a fruitful collaboration with the newly established Danish Arts Foundation, which aimed to overcome the so-called ‘cultural divide’, for example by funding artistic decoration projects outside the capital. The declared wish of Holstebro Municipality to use culture as a driving force and an economic lever that would encompass all aspects of society caused the town to become a model example of the state’s active art policy.
During the first three-year period, one third of the total appropriation of the Danish Arts Foundation went directly to Holstebro as a subsidy for art purchases, with 50% co-financed by the town itself: a period that the Danish Arts Foundation has described as the ‘Holstebro era’.
Municipal director Jens Johansen and mayor Kaj K. Nielsen steered the race for the cultural politics.
In this connection, with the assistance of the Arts Foundation, the municipality appointed an art consultant: the author and art historian Poul Vad (1927-2003). A number of significant works of art in the public space followed, by, amongst others, Albert Mertz and Astrid Noack.
Vad also facilitated the acquisition of one of Alberto Giacometti’s principal works, Woman on Cart, which uniquely was made possible with the support of the New Carlsberg Foundation. The sculpture was unveiled on 10 March 1966, and is today situated on the square in front of the old town hall, as a symbol of Holstebro’s status as a city of culture.
In recent times, too, public decorations have been provided by such prominent artists as Frithioff Johansen, Lawrence Weiner, Lene Adler Petersen, Bjørn Nørgaard and Pernille With Madsen. Holstebro’s cultural profile remains in other words inextricably linked with modern art.
Holstebro Kunstmuseum opened on 5 May 1967, and is today an independent, state-recognised institution operating under the Danish Museum Act. The museum’s main sponsor is Holstebro Municipality, in addition to which it receives statutory grants from the state.
Art consultant, Poul Vad. Photo: The Local History Archives Holstebro.
300-400 citizens attended, when mayor, Kaj K. Nielsen and director of the New Carlsberg Foundation, Jørgen Sthyr revealed Giacometti's bronze sculpture Woman on Cart. Photo: The Local History Archives Holstebro.
The museum collection
World-class art: art from around the world
The previously-mentioned Poul Vad was appointed as the first director of Holstebro Kunstmuseum. Since there were no existing art collections in the area that could meaningfully justify or form the basis of a museum, the project had to start from scratch. It became Vad’s task to compile an idea foundation and a collection policy for the newly-established institution.
His clear goal was, through purchases, deposits and loans, to create an art museum that would be markedly different from the other Danish provincial museums. Instead of focusing on local artists, the aim was to establish a collection that spanned the various forms of expression of the visual arts across both geographical and chronological boundaries.
Vad viewed art as a ‘universal phenomenon’, for which reason he oriented his collection policy along three axes: modern Danish art from approximately 1930, with retrospective collections by a few, well-chosen artists that allowed them to be studied in depth, foreign graphic art of international format, and African art.
Vads helhedssyn havde altså nationale, internationale og globale rødder. Hermed ville han præsentere modernismen i dybden og bredden, og ikke mindst anskueliggøre den afgørende rolle, såkaldt 'primitiv' kunst har spillet i det 20. århundredes kunstneriske bevidsthed.
Vad’s preferred choices among the contemporary Danish artists were the lyrical naturalist Lauritz Hartz, the imaginative naivist Henry Heerup, the abstract surrealist Ejler Bille and the experimental artist Albert Mertz. In sculpture, Vad focused on Astrid Noack and Erik Thommesen, whose works represent timeless aspects of human figure representation in sculptural history, in the cross-field from naturalism to abstraction. Today, Holstebro Kunstmuseum also houses Astrid Noack’s collection of studies, including a large number of original plaster models.
Artistic handicrafts were also represented, as expressions of equal validity, by Ursula Munch-Petersen, Gutte Eriksen and later Gertrud Vasegaard, as well as the textile artist Anna Thommesen. Several works by the artists who carried out decorative commissions for the town were also collected for the museum.
The historical parts of the museum’s collections are generally characterised by the link between the avant-garde group Linien (1934-1939) and the later, more traditionally-oriented artist association Martsudstillingen (1951-1982). Several of the museum’s distinctive figures were initiators and members of both groups, including Ejler Bille and Erik Thommesen – which to a large extent explains the collection’s focus on the enduring values in the development of art.
The collection of international graphic art originally consisted of works by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. These were soon complemented by a graphic series by Alberto Giacometti.
The extensive African collection was a testamentary gift from Poul Holm Olsen, a sculptor and former associate professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. This has since been joined by other donations, including a collection of pre-Columbian ceramics from Peru donated by the zoologists Marie and Ole Hammer, and a collection of Balinese art, donated to the museum by the visual artists Ejler Bille and Agnete Therkildsen.
Portrait of Poul Holm Olsen lectureing. Source: Pontus Kjerrman.
The main collection themes have been consolidated and expanded over the years. The collection of graphic art now also includes paper works by Francisco Goya and Francis Bacon. The more nature-determined forms of artistic expression in the collection are represented by John Olsen, Kirsten Klein and Inge Lise Westman, as well as by glass artists such as Tobias Møhl and Pipaluk Lake.
In addition, Holstebro Kunstmuseum can today boast one of the most representative collections of works by the internationally-renowned Danish artist Tal R, as well as a large volume of works by Peter Linde Busk.
In relation to the connection to global art, significant works are included by cross-cultural artists such as Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Martin Erik Andersen and Emil Westman Hertz.
In recent years, the collections of international contemporary art have also become more prominent, with works by the highly significant conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner as well as by two of the main exponents of contemporary painting: the German artists Jonathan Meese and Daniel Richter.
The Jens Nielsen and Olivia Holm-Møller Museum
Finally, it should be mentioned that an extensive collection of Olivia Holm-Møller's works is today housed at Holstebro Kunstmuseum as a result of the now defunct Jens Nielsen and Olivia Holm-Møller Museum. The museum ceased to be a department at the end of 2013.
The purpose of the museum was
The museum covered significant trends in Jens Nielsen's and Olivia Holm-Møller's work and also included additional aspects of importance for the nature of the collection: to show artists who in their motifs deal with the spiritual, ethical or religious and who place man and his relationship with and recognition of the physical and metaphysical world at the center.
The museum collection
The collection is still part of Holstebro Kunstmuseum's collection. In addition to works by Jens Nielsen and Olivia Holm-Møller, this part of the collection contains works by i.a. Arne Haugen Sørensen, Niels Helledie, Adi Holzer, Bodil Kaalund, Per Ulrich and Torvald Vestergaard.
The Jens Nielsen and Olivia holm-Møller Museum seen from Nørrebrogade with the Nørrelands Church kirken in the background.
The history of the museum
In 1969, the painter Jens Nielsen donated a large number of paintings and graphic works to a newly established Jens Nielsen Museum. Behind the museum stood vicar Jens Hvas and a circle around the Nørreland Church. The museum was given the status of an independent institution with a board of 5 members. Holstebro Municipality was the client and financed the construction of the museum, courtyard and residence for Jens Nielsen. The complex was inaugurated in June 1971. Since then, the museum has been extended several times.
In 1982, a collection of works by Olivia Holm-Møller, who was a close colleague of Jens Nielsen, was transferred after negotiations with Kulturforeningen Løgumkloster (now Museet Holmen). The official handover took place on Ascension Day 20 May 1982. The museum changed its name to the Jens Nielsen and Olivia Holm-Møllers Museum.
In the autumn of 1987, the museum was merged with Holstebro Kunstmuseum as a department of the museum under the name Jens Nielsen and Olivia Holm-Møller Collection.
The architects Inger and Johannes Exner have been responsible for the vast majority of the museum complex's buildings, just as they are the architects behind the museum's nearest neighbor Nørreland Church and its parish community house (built 1966-70). Together, the museum and church complex form an unusual and exciting architectural structure with reminders of the monastic buildings of earlier times. As a whole, the museum and church are considered an important work by Inger and Johannes Exner.
Kunst & design (former BGK)
In 2005, the newly started Billedkunstnerisk grundkursus (visual arts fundamental course) (BGK) was housed in Jens Nielsen's former residence at the Jens Nielsen & Olivia Holm-Møller Museum. And in 2007, an extension was inaugurated with classrooms for Kunst & design (Art & design), designed by Jens Overgaard, architect at Holstebro Municipality.