The David Collection today
– the reopened museum
In 1986, the C. L. David Foundation and Collection acquired Kronprinsessegade no. 32. This is the building next to no. 30, where the David Collection has had its official premises since 1945.
At the beginning of the new millennium, a decision was made that the time had come to fully refurbish both buildings for museum purposes. There was no longer enough space in no. 30 and security and public facilities were outdated.
Before a comprehensive restructuring of the museum was begun, there were naturally discussions about whether the buildings in the center of Copenhagen should be vacated and perhaps an entirely new museum be built in a completely different location.
These discussions resulted in a decision to remain in the premises and the milieu where the David Collection had been founded and to which its founder had personal ties. A location in the center of the city was considered advantageous for such a specialized museum, and it was also believed that a museum with the atmosphere and intimacy that come from being housed in buildings two centuries old would in itself be an attraction – especially in the future.
As reflected by the museum’s new logo, the David Collection will consist physically of four entities: three permanent collections and a special exhibition.
The Collection of European 18th-Century Art
As was the case before the museum underwent renovation, the Collection of European 18th-Century Art will be displayed in period interiors, so that showcases, furniture, paintings, rugs, and chandeliers form a synthesis together with the building’s original rooms. While this collection previously occupied three floors, it will be limited to the two lowest floors in the new installation.
Nothing stands as it once did, except in the Golden Age Room, but we nonetheless hope that the David Collection’s regular guests will not notice any major difference. The museum’s fine, representative selection of early Meissen¬ porcelain and porcelain from the French manufactories in Vincennes and Sèvres is intact. This is also true of the famous collection of David Roentgen’s furniture and the fascinating selection of 18th-century English furniture. The collection of foreign and Danish paintings from the 17th-18th century is also intact. The selection of Danish faience, porcelain, and silver has been reduced somewhat, but the objects have now been combined in such a way as to display pieces from the same epoch together.
The Collection of Danish Early Modern Art
The Collection of Danish Early Modern Art has not been on permanent exhibit for many years. It is moreover the only collection that has not been augmented since the founder’s death in 1960. This is why we have chosen to use texts, photographs, and film clips to present C. L. David – the lawyer, man, and art collector – as an introduction to this special collection.
The introduction is followed by a number of paintings, small sculptures, and ceramic works by artists such as Theodor Philipsen, L. A. Ring, Thorvald Bindesbøll, Niels Hansen Jacobsen, J. F. Willumsen, Peter Hansen, Albert Gottschalk, and Axel Salto. The most important group comprises no fewer than 11 works by Vilhelm Hammershøi.
The Collection of Islamic Art
The Collection of Islamic Art has grown considerably over the past 50 years. From its start as a small but fine selection of medieval ceramics, it has become Scandinavia’s largest collection of Islamic art in all its aspects; today it is among the ten most important in the Western world.
Some 1400 Islamic works of art and c. 350 coins will be displayed on the top two floors of both buildings. They will be presented in 20 sections divided chronologically-geographically, guiding the visitor through 1200 years of art history. Three special galleries will concentrate on Islamic miniatures, calligraphy, and textiles.
In order to include aspects that do not specifically concern art history or history proper, a cultural-history gallery has been set aside where various themes that are common to the Islamic world are dealt with. In addition, one room features artistic techniques; another deals with the subject of inspiration, restoration, and forgery; and finally, there is a computer room, where visitors can search databases to find further information on the Islamic world.
It will be possible to show special exhibitions of different sizes in the newly refurbished museum. There is now a permanent room for special exhibitions on the 2nd floor in no. 30. This room has direct access to the Collection of Danish Early Modern Art, which can be packed and placed in a special store in only one day, when necessary. In this way, quite an extensive area can be made available for fairly large special exhibitions.
The first special exhibition after the museum reopens is entitled “Bayt al-Aqqad – a House in Damascus” and presents the beautiful building that houses the Danish Institute in the Syrian capital. This is an institution in whose creation the C. L. David Foundation and Collection played an important role.
The new museum’s accessibility to the walking-impaired has unfortunately not improved much. The David Collection’s buildings are protected by law, and opening up access between the two has transformed the institution even more into “the museum with many flights of stairs.” An elevator has been installed, however, to serve three of the buildings’ four floors.
Education and information
It was considered imperative when plans were being made to renovate the museum that the Islamic Collection, in particular, be elucidated and explained more than before, since it is not familiar to most visitors.
Upon arrival at the David Collection, all visitors will receive a folder in Danish or English, and touch screens in the foyer will enable them to get an idea of what the museum has to offer, when, and where.
The Islamic Collection is introduced by an information board in both Danish and English with explanations of what the museum means by the term “Islamic art” and what visitors can expect to see. The collection’s 26 different sections also begin with bilingual boards, and those with historical information are supplemented by showcases displaying coins from the period in question. This is where visitors will have access via touch screens to a wealth of supplementary information in Danish and English.
There are comprehensive, standardized labels in Danish for all objects on display.
Visitors can also choose to borrow a free audio guide, which when the museum reopens will initially present a selection of just over one hundred works of art in the Islamic Collection. These introductions are currently in Danish and English.
The computer room will provide access to the museum’s website and various databases on Islamic art and culture. More detailed material of different kinds can also be accessed from the museum’s touch screens.
A new service for schools will give classes free guided tours every Wednesday and Thursday, thanks in part to the museum’s extended opening hours.
There will still be free guided tours on Saturday and Sunday for the public at large, and special paid tours can also be arranged.
Films relevant to the museum’s fields of interest will be shown daily. In addition, lectures, symposia, and conferences will be arranged from time to time.
Thanks to all these offerings and the museum’s publications, the public will be able – in many ways and on many different levels –to become thoroughly acquainted with the institution’s collections and especially with Islamic art.
Last, but not least, a major effort was made to make the museum’s bilingual website an exciting and useful tool. The new website will naturally feature all of the usual information on the David Collection that a visitor might need. Those with a special interest in the subject will also be able to study or print out many of the texts found at the museum – some of which the visitor might not have had the time or the patience to read there. The website can also be used the other way around, as an introduction to the museum. The site’s many pictures may be downloaded without cost in high resolution
for use in the classroom.
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We hope that the reopened David Collection will be visited by many people from Denmark and abroad who will delight in the exquisite collections of European and Danish art. And we especially hope that the rich and unique collection of Islamic art will find a more important place in the minds and hearts of the public.
Now, as before, admission to the David Collection is free.