Winners found for major exhibition about Kunsthal Charlottenborg’s history

In 2023, Kunsthal Charlottenborg celebrates its 140th anniversary. To mark the occasion, last spring Charlottenborg launched a competition to find the curator(s) for an upcoming exhibition to delve into the venue’s history. Now, the winners of the competition are announced.

Ever since Kunsthal Charlottenborg (originally Charlottenborg Udstillingsbygning, literally Charlottenborg Exhibition Building) was completed in 1883, a succession of some of the most significant and innovative artists from Denmark and abroad have exhibited there.

Last year, Kunsthal Charlottenborg launched a competition where curators were invited to propose an exhibition concept that would communicate the venue’s long history. Working through a field of strong applicants, an expert jury has selected the winners: Julia Rodrigues and Francesca Astesani from the curatorial collective South into North. The jury emphasised that South into North were chosen on the basis of an exhibition concept that delivered a simultaneously well-crafted and surprising submission, proposing a historical exhibition that will tell not just one, but many stories at the same time.

The Kunsthal’s lack of an archive has led the curators to engage in months of research, collecting material from disparate sources and unearthing stories from reviews, satirical drawings, personal accounts, film recordings, and private photo collections documenting the life of the Kunsthal. The intention is to combine familiar and lesser-known parts of history to create a cacophony of voices and stories.

The curators selected for the assignment, Francesca Astesani and Julia Rodrigues from South into North, state:

“From the onset, we have been interested in shattering the idea of celebrating history as a singular telling constructed by a transparent will. We strive to present a layered exhibition that, through a cacophony of voices and stories, embraces the chaos and complexities of the Kunsthal’s past. Working against the grain of art history, our curatorial approach has been shaped by intuitive choices and guided by invaluable dialogues with the artists involved in the new commissions, a small group of collaborators from different disciplines and the many generous people who have shared their knowledge and first-hand experiences of Charlottenborg with us.”

The curators have developed the exhibition concept in an ongoing conversation with multiple contributors from various fields including artists, art historians and philosophers. Historical works and documentation will be included in the exhibition, but a central feature will be new works created by contemporary artists, honouring the Kunsthal’s original mission to show the art of the times.

Says director of Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Michael Thouber:

We have long wanted to explore the history of Kunsthal Charlottenborg through a major, ambitious exhibition that shows significant moments from the venue’s long exhibition programme while at the same time reflect on the institution’s history in a way that combines obvious highlights with newfound attention to some of the artists and events that have not yet found a place in official art history. We believe that South into North, with their exhibition concept, are exactly the right people to create an exhibition that not only points back in time, but ahead as well.”

About the exhibition

The exhibition will open in September 2023 – in connection with the 140th anniversary of Kunsthal Charlottenborg – and will be on display until January 2024. The exhibition follows in the wake of other major themed exhibitions in Charlottenborg’s south wing such as Post-Capital (2022), The World is in You(2021), Witch Hunt (2020), Art & Porn (2019), Big Art(2018) and Ovartaci and the Art of Madness (2017).

About South into North

The curatorial collective South into North was founded in 2013 by Francesca Astesani and Julia Rodrigues. South into North´s curatorial work is grounded on a particular interest for contextual art practices and focus in new commissions

Francesca Astesani is a curator, writer and educator. She has worked in contemporary art since 2006, appearing in various roles in both the public and private sectors in London and, since 2011, in Copenhagen. She has curated and produced numerous public art works in Denmark; between 2019 and 2022 she was part of the Danish Arts Foundation’s special scheme for consultants on art in the public space. She is a visiting professor at the Funen Art Academy and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. She holds an MA in Philosophy from the University of Milan and in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths College in London.

Julia Rodrigues is an experienced curator and art advisor dedicated to the promotion of emerging talents and the development of art commissions. She has previously worked as a curator for the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (EACID) and coordinated the 27th Sao Paulo Biennal’s program of International Residencies. Additionally, she was co-director for the artist-run-gallery IMO in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since 2015, she is involved in curating and producing a number of public artworks in Denmark, such as the New North Zealand Hospital in Hillerød and Bo- og dagtilbud Bybjergvej, among others. She currently serves as a board member at Kunsthal 44 Møen in Denmark and regularly curates shows there and in other institutions across the country.

About the jury

René Block is an artist, curator, art collector and gallery owner. Honorary professor at Bremen University of the Arts. Head of Edition Block and co-founder of Kunsthal 44Møen. Former director of the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, the Institute for Foreign Relations in Stuttgart and DAAD’s Artists-in-Berlin program. Gallery owner from 1964–79. In August 2021 Block was appointed chief curator of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA3). René Block’s art collection is one of the most important collections within the area of Fluxus art.

Rhea Dall holds a PhD from the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Director of Overgaden in Copenhagen. Former director of UKS in Oslo, PRAXES Center for Contemporary Art in Berlin and curator at Kunsthal Charlottenborg. Has also worked on several editions of the Berlin Biennale and as project coordinator for the Danish and Nordic pavilions at the Venice Biennale.

Michala Paludan is a visual artist, fellow of the Whitney Independent Study Program and holds an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 2005 to 2009. Has, among other things, exhibited at Den Frie Udstilllingsbygning in Copenhagen, the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, the MAK Center for Art & Architecture in Los Angeles, the Moderna Museet in Malmö and the 13th Istanbul Biennale. Paludan is on the board of the UKK and of the City of Copenhagen’s Council for Visual Arts.

Mai Takawira holds an MA in modern culture and cultural communication, focusing on decolonial strategies in contemporary art. She is co-editor of Marronage, a journal and collective of decolonial feminists. In 2020, Mai Takawira curated the film programme Efterrystelser/Afterschocksfor Kunsthal Charlottenborg.

Ulla Tofte holds an MA in history from the University of Copenhagen and is director of The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle. She has taught history of technology at DTU and was director of the Golden Days Festival and the M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark in Helsingør. Ulla Tofte also sits on a number of boards and has been chairman of the Copenhagen Opera Festival.

Michael Thouber holds an MA in modern culture and cultural communication from the University of Copenhagen. Director at Kunsthal Charlottenborg; formerly head of the Danish national TV channel DR2. Thouber is chairman of the board of UP – The Development Platform for the Performing Arts and a former member of the City of Copenhagen’s Council for Visual Arts.