University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Where the art is

The University Post starts off the semester with a look at the good, the weird and the ugly in a whistle-stop tour of art on the University of Copenhagen campus

Rushing to your lecture hall at 13 minutes past the hour with a steaming latte cup in hand, the rich variety of artistic offerings at the University of Copenhagen campuses may well have escaped your notice.

The works of art on display on campus a somewhat overlooked aspect of the University environment, blending into the background as, quite literally, part of the furniture.

But don’t be deceived. The University boasts an art collection that is comparable in size, worth and quality with the largest collections in Denmark, says Jan Friis Jensen of the University of Copenhagen’s department of Campus Planning & Building.

Most of the art on display on campus is acquired in conjunction with building activities, and indeed a law passed in 1983 ensures that 1 per cent of the budget for new buildings is reserved for the purchase of artwork.

Colossal budget

»To put it into perspective, the new buildings at University of Copenhagen, Amager had a budget of, say, around DKK 1,6 billion. That means there is DKK 16 million in conjunction with the build, just for acquiring artwork. In comparison, the National Gallery of Denmark has a budget of around DKK 7 million a year. The university has around 40,000 ‘visitors’ per day, which beats all art museums in Denmark,« says Jan Friis Jensen.

»Where does all the money come from? No wonder this year’s university budget looks so bleak«, I hear you cry. However, the artwork bought via the so-called ‘1 per cent rule’ does not belong to the university, but to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. So no need to worry that teaching hours are being sacrificed for the sake of unintelligible light sculptures.

Some of the publicly displayed art on campus does belong to the university however, particularly older works; solemn portraits of esteemed scientists and historical paintings, which were given as gifts by royalty and the like. Some pieces are also bought by the university.

Science and creativity intertwine

Modern art on the university premises often reflects the interplay between scientific pursuits and creative expression. Take for example the newly opened light installation, Colliderscope, which graces the façade of Niels Bohr Institute on Blegdamsvej.

A calvalcade of ephemeral diodes respond to the motions of particles blasted in Cern’s Large Hadron Collider experiment. The speed and trajectory of the particles colliding in Switzerland determines the brightness and tempo of the illuminations, marking the close relationship between the billion euro experiment and Niels Bohr Institute’s scientists.