Get your fix of community-driven art

The Copenhagen Art Festival, several years in the making, launches this month with a sampling of local and international art favourites exhibiting work around the theme of ‘community’. This large international art festival with artists from Belgium to Brazil creates community with art work that involves audience participation in the form of artist walks, shared meals, book making, sound making, and performance workshops, as well as a participatory filmmaking project with controversial director Lars Von Trier. Festival-goers are intended to move beyond passive art appreciation and interact with the art to have the full festival experience.  


Henriette Bretton-Meyer, the director of the Overgaden Institute of Contemprorary Art, says that the festival organisers have taken the community theme seriously, choosing a more democratic structure rather than the usual ‘single curatorial vision’ typically favoured by art exhibitions and festivals. Overgaden is one of five contemporary art venues in Copenhagen –along with Gammel Strand, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, and Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Centre – that have teamed up to curate the packed festival. Each centre will present unique exhibitions and events, with a series of both indoor and outdoor programming starting on August 24. And then until September 2 there are various activities – special programmes, workshops, dinners, walks etc – while the exhibitions will remain on view throughout the autumn. 


Anne Kilgest, the curator at Gammel Strand, says that “community can be a broad ranging term”, but that it was a natural fit for the overall festival theme. Both she and Bretton-Meyer note that the Copenhagen Art Festival’s main goal is to raise awareness for contemporary art by presenting new ways to understand and experience art. The theme of community, perennially popular in the art world, both reflects the unification of Copenhagen’s contemporary art venues and functions as an umbrella structure to present a variety of art projects. The festival, with five different art exhibition halls and a slew of subsidiary locations showcasing a long roster of artists and events, should have a version of community that appeals to everyone’s understanding of the word. 


Many people find community by sharing food. Festival organisers have made a special point of programming food-centred art projects. Bretton-Meyer encourages festival-goers to find art and community in food-themed events. She says that you can join a community of fellow foodies at the Overgaden Bake-Off. On Saturday September 1, bring a homemade cake to the art centre to enter it into an open competition. Judges include actress Anne Marie Helger, the cake expert from La Glace, Marianne Stagetorn Kolos, and Dansk Radio’s Adrian Hughes. Held outside the art centre in Christianshavn Harbour, guests can enjoy music, coffee, and cake. Besides the cake competition, Overgaden is hosting a Potluck Dinner (August 30), where visitors are encouraged to BYOV (bring your own vegetable) to be shared in a collective soup pot. Danish artist Jesper Aabille will be on the scene with his mobile kitchen, and art fans can eat a meal around long tables set up in the art centre. Besides shared cake and soup, art lovers can share a drink. Starting Friday August 31, at Kunsthall Nikolaj you can have an artist for a bartender at Pop-up Bar. On three consecutive Friday evenings, a different artist, including local favourites FOS and Superflex, will run an open-air bar. The artists design the evening’s experience for bar patrons. Even kids can get in on the food and art fun. On August 26, kids can build community over soup, when they join a workshop with Swedish music archaeologist Cajas S Lund. Lund teaches kids how to make sounds with soup bones at Kunsthall Charlottenborg. 


Food is just one way to bring people together to build an artistic community – as shown in the diverse festival programming. Other ways to join in these art-based group activities include attending Greek artist Yorgos Sapountzis’s walking performance around monuments in the centre of Copenhagen (August 28), getting lost in the mysterious fog created by Chinese artist Yuan Gong, visiting British artist Ruth Ewan’s survey of alternative communities at Kunsthall Charlottenborg, or Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s large scale outdoor installation. Hordes of art lovers will have the chance to join other like-minded folks to form a roving art community during the Copenhagen Art Festival. 


Most of the festival’s participatory, community building events do not cost extra. Some, however – like the Luxury Art Walk and The Social Act, an art dinner – charge a separate fee to participate. Check the festival website before attending any of the special programming for cost, location, date, and times. 


Copenhagen Art Festival

Multiple locations in Cph;

Starts Aug 24, ends Sep 2;

For ticket prices and open hours see listings;