To celebrate the centennial of the famed Danish silversmith studio of Georg Jensen, the Danish National Gallery of Art and Georg Jensen Ltd have created a sparkling traveling exhibition that is at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum until Feb. 20 before going to London's Tate Museum.
Danish film director Bille August who won an Academy Award for Pelle the Conqueror (1987) along with scenographer Anna Asp have created a labyrinth of lighting effects, interior design, evocative music, and a collection of realistic and abstract modern Danish painting to tell a story about the sensual handmade silver work of the Jensen studio.
The exhibition is innovative: the work is thematically arranged according to the changing seasons of Denmark, where winter is dark, long and cold and summers are dazzlingly brilliant. The exhibit reminds viewers how Denmark's contrasting light and dark atmospheres influence its native craftspeople and artists.
Besides the four seasons, there is a long cream-colored corridor named Thaw, which showcases tea and coffee sets, and at the end of the labyrinth is a viewing area where a short documentary about the Georg Jensen studio is shown.
The first thing on view in the labyrinth is the green floor's shimmery light pattern, which mimics the shadows of trees gently moving in the breeze. A painting by Valdemar Schonheyder Moller (Sunset Fountainebleau) tries to show the leafy treetops but the setting summer sun overpowers the painter's vision. This feeling of being overwhelmed by the dazzling precious sunlight bursts forth from the works such as a set of cutlery, teasets, candelabra and a row of diamond rings. Shining spotlights pick up all the hand-hammered marks of the holloware. It's almost like viewing a show of glassworks; it is surprising to see that a hard dense metal such as silver can appear so light and sparkly.
Luminosity was integral to Jensen's standards and he claimed, "silver has that lovely moonlight quality ... something of the light of a Danish summer night." This characteristic is most evident in one of the most beloved of his works, the Moonlight Brooch. In this signature piece, the silver swirls like calligraphy and gently, yet firmly, holds the shimmering bluish irridescent moonstones. This brooch exemplifies the Danish Skonvirke movement which was influenced by Britain's Arts and Crafts movement, most notably the works of William Morris.
Under the summer theme, other silver brooches made with amber, agates and opals sparkle magically. One can see a bit of Morris' influence in the famed Grape Bowl, a silver chalice-like vessel on a twisted stem with little bunches of grapes attached to the bottom of the bowl.
In the winter room, works that are more geometric or crystalline are on view. One work that epitomizes this frozen type of abstraction is the Henning Koppel-designed covered fish platter. It took about 500 hours for a craftsperson to make the piece and its cover fits precisely, whichever way you turn it round. Such precision is technically difficult, which is why Jensen silver also comes with a hefty price tag.
Most of the paintings and lighting serves as secondary elements and work as nice complements to the silver pieces. But one or two paintings stand on their own. An expressive canvas painted in 1953 by Asger Jorn, one of the leading figures of the CoBra group, still retains its vibrancy and vitality and seems fresh.