Nordic Notes & Observations - Denmark

 Rather than a personalised journal, the following is a straightforward factual account using info from various websites as well as my own notes and observations - intended as a useful tool for colleagues both at my work place and other crafts curators across the East Midlands.

Notes on Institutions & Galleries in Denmark


Danish Crafts

Director, Brigitte Jahn

Kristian Kastoft, Head of Projects and communication


“We consider crafts to be the avant-garde of design since crafts constitute the exploratory, innovative part of the Danish design world. Crafts take their cue from free artistic practice while possessing skills and competencies which may be highly significant for innovation in Danish production companies”


Danish Crafts (established 1999) profiles quality Danish craft. Its work is aimed at branding Danish craft and design at an international level and helping professional craft artists and designers gain a foothold in the international market.


Its objective is to promote knowledge of Danish craft at home and abroad while increasing sales and contributing to general professionalization within the field. Furthermore it provides funds for promotional initiatives aimed at increasing visibility, accessibility and sales for Danish craft and design. Its activities include exhibition organisation, publishing (it produces a monthly broadsheet called Fokus), media coverage, conferences and advisory services.


Danish Crafts is an independent institution established under the Danish Ministry of Culture, but a number of its activities target the commercial sector. For instance it markets crafts commercially by participating in international trade fairs eg SOFA, NY; Mindcraft09 Milan; Maison et Objet, Paris; 100% Design, London; Collect, London 09, where Denmark was represented by ceramicists:









In terms of its governance, Danish Crafts has a board of Directors consisting of representatives from the private sector and makers although it is not a member organisation. It is funded by the Danish Ministry of Culture and in turn it funds makers. During the last 4 years it has received a grant of 40 million Kronor (approx. 4.5 million pounds) to promote Danish Design specifically in New York and China.


Kristian Kastoft spoke about the International activities of Danish Craft and particularly the core activity of putting together a collection or portfolio of approximately 25 selected makers to be represented at international markets and exhibitions. He referred to the dynamic nature of contemporary Danish design and particularly the blurring of traditional boundaries between craft, industrial design and architecture. 12 collections have so far been made over the last 10 years. Different invited curators (the current curator is architect Karen Kjoergaard) make the selection on a yearly basis and makers are invited to apply with a product and business plan. It deals with products at an early stage of development; once a design has gone into mass production it no longer comes within its remit. To be eligible makers have to have had formal training in crafts or design and must have their own practice and be registered as a profession although they do not necessarily need to be solely responsible for production. New professionals are likely to be using new technologies as much as traditional hand craft techniques.


Danish Crafts brokers relationships between craft makers/designers and industry and creates networking opportunities at International market places. It also provides a mentoring service for its selected makers which is very hands-on and delivered on a one-to-one basis with advice on self promotion, professionalization and knowledge of International markets as well as how to develop products before they are ready for the market and how to package them. Danish Crafts gleans information about international trends and feeds back not only to individual makers but also to the industry eg Royal Copenhagen Ceramics. Selected makers have access to seminars and publications and some will receive travel funds to attend international markets.


KK referred to Eindhoven Academy as another model in Europe of an organisation which works in a similar way to Danish Crafts. Outside the States and Japan its most successful markets are in Germany.




Galeri Groenlund


Birketoften 16A



Tel: 00 45 44 44 2798


Established 1994, GG specializes in Danish Glass representing about 20 makers. It organises solo and themed exhibitions and represents its artists both in Denmark and in major international exhibitions such as SOFA, NY. It opened a gallery in the centre of Copenhagen in 2007 but now only operates from a showroom (the owner’s house) outside the city centre. Apart from Galerie Metal, it is the only dedicated craft gallery in Copenhagen.

Anna Groenlund made the point that the top-market craft buying public in Denmark is very small, only a handful of people. She said that her buyers attend the international markets so why pay the very high costs of running a gallery from the centre of Copenhagen when she could do it equally well from her own home.


Galerie Metal


Nybrograde 26

1203 Copenhagen

Tel: 00 45 3314 5540


The oldest space in Denmark for contemporary jewellery. Founded in 1978.

In 2001 the gallery was taken over by a group of young Danish artists. They formed a society with the aim of running a gallery on an international level in order to exhibit foreign and Danish jewellery. The Gallery organises exhibitions of international profile artists plus a further two by members of the gallery annually. There is also a permanent display in the gallery by members of Galerie Metal.

On display at the time of our visit (15 April – 23 May 2009) was an exhibition of conceptual jewellery and film pieces (including ‘snail necklace’ and ‘Ivy animation’) by Marijke Schurink called ‘Natur’



The National Workshops for Arts and Crafts


Gammel Dok Pakhus

Strandgade 27B



Tel: 00 45 32 96 05 10


Director, Frederik Hardvendel


Makes an important contribution to supporting art and design in Denmark by providing well- equipped studios and specialised workshops with technical/professional support for artists and makers using the spaces for between 1 week and 6 months. They are particularly designed for projects which cannot be done on the artist’s own premises due to the scale of the work undertaken or because it requires specialist equipment or guidance.


The workshops are 25 years old and were an initiative of the Danish Ministry of Culture. Visual artists make up the largest component of the residents (about 50%) but there also crafts makers, industrial designers and conservators. The workshops support approximately 160 projects each year which are selected on the merits of their artistic quality and represent the cream of artists/designers in Denmark. The project is entirely public funded to the tune of about 7 million Danish kronor per annum (approx. £800,000).

The National workshops are managed by Vaerkstedradet, a governing board which has the overriding responsibility for running the organisation. Applications are assessed and approved by 4 committees (about 4 members on each) for visual art, arts and crafts, design and conservation. They also decide the length of the residencies. The grant pays for space and technical support but not subsistence although there are apartments also available. The workshops are open 24 hours a day.

Technical support; woodwork and metalwork workshops have their own dedicated support staff; photographic and printmaking consultants come in when needed. There are no glass- blowing facilities.

5-10% of the artists are from overseas but the projects must have some Danish link or outcome eg an exhibition in Denmark to be eligible. The close working relationships the space affords has resulted in some interesting dialogues between visual arts and crafts leading to collaborations.


Danish Arts & Crafts Association


Bredgade 66

DK-1260 Copenhagen

Tel: 00 45 3315 2940


Managing Director, Nicolai Gjessing

Chairman, Mark Lauberg

The Danish Arts and Crafts Association and the Crafts Council merged in May 1999 under the former's name. The new association's secretariat and information centre are located next to the Danish Museum of Decorative Art, Copenhagen. The aims of the organisation are to work for the development of Danish arts and crafts; to care for the interest of the members in all matters concerning their trade, continued development and education; to propagate for knowledge of - and use of - artist-craftspeople and their works in all parts of the community; to strengthen and coordinate the area of arts and crafts with special reference to creating knowledge and recognition for arts and crafts as a cultural factor.

The association's board and committees influence cultural policy through representation in: cultural-policy bodies; copyright organisations; the boards of schools of crafts and design; the boards of museums and galleries


The association is responsible for projects and exhibitions such as the Biennial of Crafts and Design and the Crafts Fair at Copenhagen's Frue Plads. It also coordinates participation in exhibitions and competitions in Denmark and abroad.

The association publishes the quarterly KUNSTUFF - Danish Crafts and Design, providing information on developments in crafts and design.



There are 520 members of Danish Arts and Crafts (no website of members exists at present, only for the exhibitors at the annual market), the dominant group being ceramicists (210) with textile artists being the next largest group of makers represented. As part of a recent political initiative regional offices have been set up (there are 5 main regions in Denmark each containing smaller municipalities) to encourage and promote local crafts as part of regional tourism branding.

KUNSTUFF is the magazine published 4 times a year with a new format since 2004 compiled by freelancers largely from Scandinavia, a future issue will be devoted to Scandinavian design although increasingly the members it serves are living and working overseas.


The annual market at Frue Plads (2nd weekend in August) in Copenhagen is in its 26th year and each year includes about 155 members exhibiting their work. It is the biggest craft market in Denmark.

Membership – recent graduates can automatically become members; it also includes members from sister organisation in Scandinavia. Remit of the Association is more internal, member focussed than Danish Craft. It doesn’t do professional development at present due to lack of resources. It is part of the World Crafts Council.

Makers tend to be much more conceptual in their approach now with less emphasis on skill-based activities at higher education, so much sop that there is a fear that traditional skills will be lost. The centre of studio-based, one-off production has moved to the island of Bjornholm whereas industrial/commercialised crafts are being favoured in the universities. A lot of the Association’s members have made use of the facilities at The National Workshops.

Nicolai Gjessing spoke a little about government funding for the arts in Denmark which is dispensed through 2 main bodies:

Arts Council which funds projects and overseas exhibitions but is limited to Fine Arts not crafts, it being assumed that architecture, design and craft address themselves to the market; and the Arts Foundation which gives individual grants to artists for travel, project development and subsistence grants to work as an artist for a 3-year period (approx. £100,000 for 3 years) Artists may also earn income on top of these grants.



Biennial of Crafts and Design, Trapholt Museum of Modern Danish Art, Applied Art and Furniture Design

Aeblehaven 23

6000 Kolding


Tel: 00 45 76 30 05 30


30 Sustainable Makers at Trapholt made up the 2009 Biennial of Crafts and Design

178 of Denmark’s leading and most creative craft and industrial designers submitted entries to the Biennale Secretariat in an effort to win the Biennale Prize of DKK 100,000.

All entries reflected the concept “sustainability”, which was this year’s theme for Biennale 2009 for Craft and Design. Projects ranged from jewellery, textiles and ceramics to means of transport, methods of production and furniture.


Biennial Conference. Principal Speaker Michael Braungart, Founder of ‘Cradle to Cradle’: An Opportunity for Innovation. Wikipedia definition of ‘Cradle to Cradle’


Cradle to Cradle Design (sometimes abbreviated to C2C or in some circles referred to as regenerative) is a biomimetic approach to the design of systems. It models human industry on nature's processes in which materials are viewed as nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms. It suggests that industry must protect and enrich ecosystems and nature's biological metabolism while also maintaining safe, productive technical metabolism for the high-quality use and circulation of organic and synthetic materials. Put simply, it is a holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not just efficient but essentially waste free.[1] The model in its broadest sense is not limited to industrial design and manufacturing; it can be applied to many different aspects of human civilization such as urban environments, buildings, economics and social systems.

The term 'C2C Certification' is a protected term of the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) consultants. It is a proprietary system of certification. The phrase "Cradle to Cradle" itself was coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970's, and the current model is based on a system of "lifecycle development" initiated by Michael Braungart and colleagues at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in the 1990s and explored through the publication A Technical Framework for Life-Cycle Assessment. In partnership with Braungart, William McDonough released the publication Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things in 2002, which is an effective manifesto for Cradle to Cradle Design that gives specific details of how to achieve the model. The model has been implemented by several companies, organisations and governments around the world, particularly in China and the US. Cradle to Cradle has also been the subject matter of many documentary films, including the critically acclaimed Waste=Food. (Wikipedia)


Further reading: Cradle to Cradle; Remaking the Way We Make Things

William McDonough/Michael Braungart. North Point Press 2002.