The foundation and the first five years
ARKEN Museum of Modern Art was opened on 15 March 1996 by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe. Prior to that lay years of political work to turn the region south of Copenhagen to an important part of Danish cultural life.
In many ways ARKEN is a natural part of the development of Copenhagen. From the very beginning of the urban renewal in the 1960s, Copenhagen’s western and southern suburbs became established as the preferred destination for former inhabitants of the inner city. This meant that the population in the new suburban municipalities grew significantly in number throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.
This tendency was reinforced by the increased immigration into Denmark. The municipalities south of Copenhagen became popular for people of especially Kurdish, Turkish and Pakistani origin. For the first time large multi-cultural quarters sprang up in Denmark.
In continuation of Danish cultural politics it was natural to establish a cultural institution to give the large new population of the western suburbs an opportunity to experience the greatest national and international art, in their own region.
This ambition carried the foundation of ARKEN Museum of Modern Art through the political system, and led to one of the great Danish cultural investments of the latter half of the twentieth century. ARKEN became an undertaking of international dimensions.
When all decisions were made and funding was secured, a competition was held to find an architect. The young architecture student Søren Robert Lund surprisingly won the competition. His suggestion for a deconstructivist museum building now provides the setting for ARKEN. The museum's architecture is striking and bold, but nonetheless suits its surrounding in Strandparken very well.
Since its establishment ARKEN has worked hard at enhancing the quality of all aspects of the museum's affairs, and since 1997 is firmly established among its peers in the national and international circle of museums.
The most important milestones in the history of the museum
1988 Søren Robert Lund wins first prize in the competition for the new museum of modern art in Ishøj
1996 ARKEN opens on March 15. Emil Nolde and Kirkeby exhibitions amongst others draw 283,000 visitors.
1997 Christian Gether is hired as museum director.
1998 ARKEN enters into a 4-year performance contract with the county of Copenhagen.
1999 ARKEN attains government authorisation.
2001 ARKEN receives its visitor number 1 million.
2002 The first issue of the research journal ARKEN Bulletin is published.
2004 The Picasso exhibition “For All Times” opens and draws 184,000 visitors.
2006 ARKEN awards its Art Prize for the first time. The Prize is donated by Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs’ Philanthropic Foundation.
2007 ARKEN receives its visitor number 2 million.
ARKEN enters into a research collaboration with Roskilde University.
The museum passes from Copenhagen County to the state.
2008 The New ARKEN opens with a total of 5000 m2 of exhibition space.
The exhibition “The Skagen Painters – In a New Light” draws 142,000 visitors.
2009 Opening of new entrance, sculpture hall and teaching room. The museum is donated by Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs' Philanthropic Foundation OJD.
Ambitious UTOPIA exhibition series opens.
2011 Olafur Eliasson developes a 90-metre-long fog tunnel especially designed for the Art Axis at ARKEN.
ARKEN receives a donation from The Merla Art Foundation consisting of several works by the British artist Damien Hirst.
2012 The largest exhibition in the history of the museum, "India : art now", opens.
ARKEN receives a donation from Annie & Otto Johs. Detlefs' Philanthropic Foundation OJD consisting of several works by the German artist Anselm Reyle.
The A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation makes a substantial multi-million-krone donation for redefining the landscape around ARKEN.
The above information is elaborated on in ARKEN’s annual reports.
The coming years
Today the museum matches the grand ambitions its founders had. ARKEN takes on local, regional and international tasks as part of its civic responsibility and seeks to solve these in a way that lives up to the highest standards of international museum administration.
The coming years at ARKEN will be distinguished by great exhibitions of classical Danish and international artists juxtaposed with exhibitions of brand new art. In addition to this, ARKEN continues to expand its collection of the newest Danish and international art. The art historical research will remain fundamental in ARKEN's operation, and the museum continues its development of communication of the art and pedagogical activities for children and young people.