Shades of Black


Throughout the summer of 2010 Ordrupgaard will present the exhibition Shades of Black with Martin Bigum • Preben Fjederholt • Thomas Kluge • Michael Kvium • Peter Martensen • Ulrik Møller • Odd Nerdrum • Balder Olrik.


Contemporary Art on Debate

The art debate was fired up when Merete Sanderhoff questioned the scope of the term “contemporary art” in her book Sorte billeder – Kunst og kanon (“Black Images – Art and Canon”) in 2007. Now the debate-making book has become a great art exhibition: Shades of Black.


Merete Sanderhoff’s Sorte billeder – Kunst og kanon has triggered a discussion about the mechanisms of the art scene and shed new light on eight artists: Martin Bigum • Preben Fjederholt • Thomas Kluge • Michael Kvium • Peter Martensen • Ulrik Møller • Balder Olrik and not least the Norwegian pioneer Odd Nerdrum. To Merete Sanderhoff, researcher at the National Gallery of Denmark, central elements in the work of the eight artists are related in decisive ways: Their choice of the painting as their means of expression, their view on the ability of the artwork to speak the language of ordinary people across time and space and their insistence on the finished, aesthetically-complete form of the artwork. It is this kinship that provides the background for Ordrupgaard’s new exhibition Shades of Black.


Time, Death and History

For the first time, these eight significant artists are presented in a joint exhibition, shedding light on an overlooked current in contemporary art. The artworks included in Shades of Black are fundamentally different from what you would usually expect from art today. The singular artists share the commonality of, in nuances of black, depicting the great classical themes of art: death, time and history from a contemporary point of view. The artists behind these works are often considered to be loners on the art scene. Shades of Black gathers some of their main works and illuminates how they can be seen as contributions to an actual current within contemporary art. The eight artists are related in their approach to the painting, formally and aesthetically, but most of all in their depictions of the classic themes in art.


An Unbroken Tradition

A common feature of the works on display at Ordrupgaard’s Shades of Black is their ability to render human conditions of life with great sympathy and honesty. They thereby belong to an unbroken tradition of expressing the essential questions in life through art; a tradition that crosses borders of time, geography, art forms and art genres, and is every bit as current today as 500 years ago – despite the downplaying of it in the rendering of contemporary art.

Shades of Black show 32 selected paintings – four paintings by each artist – whose motifs, narratives and aesthetic form correspond meaningfully with each other. The works communicate and enrich each other’s expression, but is not meant as a manifestation or the staging of a new group on the contemporary art scene.


Shades of Black has been created in a cooperative effort between Ordrupgaard, Vejle Kunstmuseum and art historian Merete Sanderhoff. The exhibition will subsequently be presented at Vejle Kunstmuseum.


The exhibition is supported by:

Knud Højgaards Fond, Montana, Oticon Fonden, Nykredit Ingeniør Ernst B. Sunds Fond and The Nerdrum Institute.


The painting above:

Odd Nerdrum, Sole Morte, 1987

Oil on canvas, 205.5 x 226 cm. (section)

Courtesy The Nerdrum Institute


22 May 2010 - 29 August 2010

Previous exhibitions