Exhibition: 13th January – 4th March, 2018

The Picture, the Wall, the Figure - Per Kirkeby in Ribe

Billedet, muren, figuren – Per Kirkeby in Ribe is not just the title of a special exhibition at Ribe Kunstmuseum in 2018. It also conveys the special relationship between Kirkeby and Ribe and, figuratively speaking, the artist has been in the town since 1976 when the first exhibition was held. Twenty years later, in 1996, another exhibition was presented, and in 2016 the museum was slated to host a third. That this failed to materialise has now been remedied, although two years too late, if the twenty years interval is to be strictly maintained. We hope we may be forgiven for this even though it is precisely repetition, the ordered, structured sequence, which has become one of the most important elements in Per Kirkeby’s art.

Ornament, the 1976 exhibition

As a prelude to Billedet, muren, figuren (The Image, the Wall, the Figure) fragments of Kirkeby’s earlier exhibitions at Ribe Kunstmuseum (1976 and 1996) will be displayed in the first rooms of the museum. The 1976 exhibition was the last in a total series of four museum exhibitions presented by Kirkeby at the beginning of the 70s as a showdown with the modernisation of the exhibitions of cultural-historical museums. Kirkeby was an inveterate opponent of the new trend in the Danish museum world, of the incursion of photo-stats and interpretive texts. The exhibition Ornament in Ribe set itself apart from the other three. It was on a small scale, occupying only a single room in the museum’s basement, and mainly consisted of pieces from Kirkeby’s own “hiding-places” and the Collection of Antiquities in the Ribe storage magazine. It was, thus, not an art-historical, but rather an archaeological exhibition. The present exhibition offers – in Kirkeby’s own words in the form of quotations – an insight into the nature of Ornament.

Per Kirkeby – the 1996 exhibition

The 1996 exhibition consisted solely of works by the artist himself in the form of some 70 paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works. But, as in 1976, he developed the concept himself and was solely responsible for the selection of works. For the exhibition the paintings on white canvas were complemented by new works, consisting of twelve painted black panels of masonite. These panels hark back to the 1876 exhibition, where an old school blackboard was elevated by Kirkeby into a painting. 10 of the panels executed for the exhibition at Ribe in 1996 have been reproduced photographically in Billedet, muren, figuren.

Billedet, muren, figuren

The exhibition takes as its starting point the works to be found in Ribe: the wall and the sculpture in the museum garden and the funerary monument to the poet Ambrosius Stub in front of Saint Catherine’s Church. All these works use the same motifs: the tree trunk the rock, the ornament, geometric forms and geological strata. Kirkeby is a true all-around artist, who has mastered graphics as well as painting and sculpture. Billedet, muren, figuren features examples of work from the 1970s up to the present day. Visitors are therefore invited to embark on a journey of discovery in Kirkeby’s imagery across media and chronology. The works have been generously lent by Kunstmuseet in Tønder, Museum Jorn in Silkeborg as well as by the Esbjerg Kunstmuseum and Galleri Bo Bjerggaard.

An accompanying catalogue containing written contributions by Per Kirkeby himself and Willliam Gelius (reprinted from the sold-out 1996 catalogue) as well as by the curators of the exhibition, Dagmar Warming and Josephine Nielsen-Bergqvist, is available from the museum shop, price 125 Danish kroner.

The exhibition is supported by: Knud Højgaards Fond, Grosserer L.F. Foghts Fond and Overretssagfører L. Zeuthens Mindelegat as well as
Per Kirkeby, Ti tavler, 2002, Museum Sønderjylland (Kunstmuseet i Tønder)
Per Kirkeby, Ti tavler, 2002, Museum Sønderjylland (Kunstmuseet i Tønder)