By Jenna Rinalducci, George Mason University
While researching the museums in Denmark, I have been amazed by the number and variety of cultural institutions. Denmark is 16,573 square miles, approximately the size of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Despite its size, it has over 600 museums. This high number is a testament to support from the government and the Danish people.
Museums range from the internationally known institutions like SMK National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen to local museums like Kokkedal’s Fredensborg Local History Museum. Denmark even has four Viking museums. However, I was fascinated to learn about there are two museums solely dedicated to glass as an art form. I have been interested in this art form ever since visiting Venice over twenty years ago, and this interest inspired me to learn more about these museums. In the port town of Ebeltoft is Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, and Hempel Glasmuseum is located in the southern city of Nykøbing.
Danish glass artist Finn Lynggaard, along with Erling Rasmussen and Bent Fredberg, created Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in 1986. It is a private institution directed by the Foundation for the Collection of Contemporary, International Glass Art. Even though it does not receive financial support from the government, the staff regularly informs the Ministry of Cultural Affairs about their projects. The museum exhibits contemporary, international glass art. It takes an interesting approach to collecting. They select artists to join the collection; once the artists accept, they send objects as a donation or loan. Artists even exchange work or send new items in order to keep the collection current. There are approximately 1,500 items in the permanent collection. It highlights over 700 artists. The museum has integrated into the town of Ebelfort through events like lectures, concerts, and children’s programs and by offering a studio space.
Nykøbing is twice the size of Ebeltoft with a population just over 16,000. Its glass museum Hempel Glasmuseum grew from the collection of industrialist J.C. Hempel (1894-1986). Similar to Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, it is a private museum. Hempel Culture Foundation manages it. In contrast, the Hempel Glasmuseum focuses on the history of glassware and not just contemporary glass art. The museum claims to have Northern Europe’s largest private collection of European glass from 1500 to 1900, as well as the largest collection of ornamental glasses and decorated goblets. In order to promote Danish glass artists, it awards the annual Hempel Glass Prize to a prominent Danish glass artist and displays their work. The museum provides similar programming with concerts, lectures, and children’s activities. Hempel Glasmuseum also tries to create an immersive experience when visiting. As visitors drive up, they see life-size bronze figures surrounded by shrubbery in the Viggo Jarl Sculpture Park.
While these museums have slightly different focuses with contemporary glassware versus historical, they both provide valuable insight into the art medium of glass.