Once upon a time there was a swamp on the outskirts of the city, next to a timber pit and a hospital for prostitutes with venereal diseases. Today this location is considered the city centre, and you can find one of Copenhagen’s major icons with its golden Parisian-style dome here.
The Glyptotek building is a work of art in itself. An architectural monument in the heart of Copenhagen, it provides an extraordinary setting for the Glyptotek’s antiquities and 19th-century art. But what stories lurk behind the façades of this iconic building with its myriad of marble, mosaics and colours?
Copenhagen is UNESCO’s World Capital of Architecture 2023. As part of the occasion, Glyptotek is mounting a special exhibition that tells the story of the museum’s amazing architecture. Feel the marble, try your hand at mosaic making and see the architects’ stunning watercolours and meticulous drawings.
The exhibition will provide you with a glimpse of what is concealed behind the richly decorated façades, outlining the methods of the architects and what it was like to work for the brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen, who had strong opinions about what the buildings should finally look like.
The Temple of Beauty
The Glyptotek was built by the brewery owner Carl Jacobsen in 1897, after he and his wife Ottilia Jacobsen had donated their art collection to the public. He named his museum ‘Glyptotek’ (meaning ‘a collection of sculptures’) after the Greek words glyptos (‘carving’ or ‘sculpting’) and theke (a place where something is collected or displayed).
There was no doubt about the vision for the museum. It was not a traditional museum that Carl Jacobsen wanted. He wanted to construct a “temple of beauty”, in which art could speak to everyone, and in which the architecture would provide a magnificent setting.
One museum, three buildings
Today, the Glyptotek comprises three different buildings. The first part of the museum was designed by one of the greatest architects of the time, Vilhelm Dahlerup, famous for the Royal Theatre, the National Gallery of Denmark, the Lake Pavilion and Queen Louise’s Bridge – all in the heart of Copenhagen. However, it soon became apparent that the building was not large enough to accommodate the growing art collection. This called for expansion of the museum. So, in 1906, Carl Jacobsen inaugurated not only an extension designed by the architect Hack Kampmann, but also a Winter Garden designed by Vilhelm Dahlerup.
In 1996 the museum acquired yet another extension, this time designed by the Henning Larsen architecture firm. Both Hack Kampmann and Henning Larsen were also famous Danish architects. Kampmann is particularly famous for the Copenhagen Police Quarters, Aarhus Theatre and Marselisborg Castle, while Henning Larsen and his firm are known for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Riyadh, Copenhagen Opera House and ‘The Wave’ in Vejle.
Architecture in a league of its own
At first glance, the architecture of the Glyptotek may seem a bit old-fashioned. However, if you take a really close look behind the façade, you will discover all sorts of modern materials and construction methods. For example, Vilhelm Dahlerup and Hack Kampmann were not afraid of making use of brand new, contemporary industrial materials such as concrete, iron and steel, alongside traditional materials such as brick and marble. Carl Jacobsen invited Italian mosaic specialists to Denmark to create the unique mosaic floors of the museum. Throughout the museum, the daylight from modern skylights plays a unique role in terms of how we experience the architecture and the sculptures.
Visitors can look forward to a close encounter with the unique architecture of the Glyptotek in an exhibition featuring photos, drawings, films, models and installations that display samples of the buildings’ structures.
The design of the exhibition is a collaboration between the Glyptotek and JAC Studio.
In the context of the exhibition, and in collaboration with Strandberg Publishing, the Glyptotek is publishing a richly illustrated book all about the architecture of the Glyptotek. The book will provide in-depth professional information about the architecture and history of the Glyptotek, taking an aesthetic, sensuous look at the actual experience of the buildings and the interaction between the architecture and the works of art for which it forms the setting.
The book is edited by Jannie Rosenberg Bendsen, the curator of the exhibition, and Anna Manly with contributions from Gertrud Hvidberg-Hansen, Peter Thule Kristensen, Mogens A. Morgen, Birgitte Kleis, Martin Søberg, Kasper Lægring, Claus Grønne, Anne Simonsen, Kristina Lindholdt, Jacob Ingemann Parby, Vibeke Cristofoli, Ida Overgaard Carnera, Jesper Christiansen, Eva Tind, Sophia Kalkau and Sif Itona Westerberg.
For their support of the Glyptotek’s exhibition program 2023-2024, thank you to:
For their support of the exhibition, thank you to:
Knud Højgaards Fond
Hoffmann og Husmans Fond
For their generous support of the book, we would like to thank:
The New Carlsberg Foundation
The Glyptotek takes part of the program for World Capital of Architecture 2023.
See the exciting activities and events, the Glyptotek has to offer. Please note, the events in Danish will not be presented here. Go to the Danish version of the homepage to see all events.
Enjoy a delicious lunch at Picnic overlooking the Glyptotek's beautiful Winter Garden.
The Small Salon
Experience a small thematic exhibition about the French artist Paul Gauguin’s residence in Copenhagen.