In the Presence of Beauty – From Copenhagen to the Danish West Indies
Immense wealth, sugar plantations, slave trade, exquisite art, war, state bankruptcy and journeys under faraway skies. The exhibition marks the reopening of Øregaard Museum after a thoroughgoing renovation, designed to bring the beautiful, listed country house from 1806 back to its simple, neoclassicist splendour.
The house was built for merchant businessman and plantation owner Johannes Søbøtker (1777-1854) who was part of the absolute top of the merchant society in Copenhagen. With his family estate in the Danish West Indies and his own shipping company, he had the means to support a lifestyle that could only be found amongst the most elite of Danish society. The exhibition presents the story of Søbøtker and his family as part of a greater story of one of the most colourful chapters in Danish history: The transition from the Florissant Age to the more difficult years of the Golden Age.
In this story from the brink of chaos, the museum visitor is brought on a journey from the Copenhagen of that day to the natural beauties of Zealand and all the way to the distant Danish West Indies. The exhibition pays close attention to political and economic developments and, particularly, to the aesthetic that influenced this period’s views on art and nature. The exhibition showcases many works by artists such as Jens Juel and C.W. Eckersberg and, framed by the Øregaard buildings and the surrounding park landscape, it attempts to capture an authentic image of a turbulent era, a portrayal of the realities as well as the ideals and dreams that would go on to have great impact on the years to come.
A Contemporary Perspective
In connection with the exhibition, young Danish artist Søren Lose has created a collection of photographs and a video installation in which the past and the present are joined. Temporal displacement and a sense of place are key elements in Lose’s work and, through two journeys to the island Saint Croix in the former Danish West Indies, he has probed and examined the spirit of the place and the taboos surrounding Denmark’s former colony – a place which significance to contemporary Denmark might otherwise be seen as remote and distant.