Monday, 17 August 2015

Museum of the 3 Louises

Why Alexander Brun would marry three different women named Louise is not quite the sort of contemplation one wants to grapple with before visiting a museum.  But that was all I could think of during the 40 minute train ride from Copenhagen to Humlebæk. That and what could have possibly possessed the third Louise to marry a man who had already had two wives named Louise. My thoughts on Mr. Brun's marital fetish was brought to an end by a rather apt Henry Moore statue at the entrance. A statue of a woman sitting with her legs crossed but one could easily argue it was wide open.

Humlebæk, a town on the banks of the Øresund Strait, is the location of Denmark's most famous museum - Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and I was standing at its entrance. In 1958 an idea possessed Knud W. Jensen, the museum's founder, which resulted in him taking over the Brun country house and converting it into a museum. He did retain its name though in honour of the Mrs. Brun Trinity. 

The first piece of 'art' is what could be best described as a giant Harry Potteresque spider. One descends into a subterranean collection of sculpture, paintings, photographs and other indescribable items. Artifacts that make me yearn for a couple of swigs of whatever concoction the artist must have been drinking when conceptualising it. Needless to say, my puerile mind could not fathom most of the art. The Picassos,Warhols and Moores on display sometimes evoked bemusement but mostly incomprehension and seldom awe. This is not to say that I did not appreciate any of the art. A few did inspire enough emotion to find residence in the crypts of my memory - Tara Donovan sculptures made out of pins and needles and a few works in the Yoko Ono showcase. One of Yoko's pieces was a glass slab called 'Painting to let the evening light go through' and that this is one of the few works that I remember goes a long way in explaining my eye for modern art.

In spite of my vacuum in comprehension, three and a half hours later I am filled with a familiar sense of wonder. A wonder that I had never before experienced in a museum but often experienced while travelling. The feeling of unison with this new place far from home, when no other thought enters to break the silent conversation you are having with the place and its elements.The architecture and layout of the museum blend seamlessly with its location on the banks of the Øresund. Every once in a while I end up exiting on to a lawn with weird sculptures or a balcony with a view of the calm shore.  Enter a room which is all but empty barring a diving board sticking out into the sea beckoning you to run down it and take a dive. On a couple of occasions I stand rooted in open-mouthed admiration, unable to discern where the work of man ends and nature's handiwork begins.

I watch Copenhagen speeding up to me in my train window and I have a grateful admiration for Knud Jensen's vision and endeavour. The third Louise's matrimonial decision did not perplex me any longer. It had to be the location of Alexander Brun's country home. It just had to be!

Monday, 10 August 2015

A Svaneke Moment

 "Why would you want to go to Denmark for your honeymoon?" 

For a couple of weeks I had grown accustomed to answering that question from friends and family. The answer began with my insistence on a 'first-visit destination' for the both of us and continued to explain my soon to be wife's previous European vacation disguised as a student exchange program and ended with justifiable meteorological reasons for visiting Denmark in July. But when the question comes from a rather puzzled officer at the Denmark Consulate, I start doubting the 'brilliance' of my decision to book cheaper non-refundable flights.

Fast forward a couple of months and I find myself sitting on the ledge that serves as the wall of Svaneke Kirken. A rather small building that would be lost in many other settings but stands tall in the small town of Svaneke in the Danish island of Bornholm. Svaneke had just been voted as the most beautiful market town in Denmark and from what little I had seen so far, it certainly had my vote

The church on its own is not much of a building. The red color of the church reminds me of the Writer's Building in Kolkata or Chennai Central station. I take a step back and I see the grey Baltic sea in the near distance blending with the brilliant blue sky at the far distant horizon. The red Kirken makes for a pretty picture against the azure blue sky. The church, the sky and I sit in rapt admiration of the rhythmic movement of the green stalks of barley, in the adjacent field, dancing to the tunes of the gentle breeze. The gravel paths neatly demarcate those resting peacefully and adds to the beauty of the meditative wholeness of the moment. 

The marriage between the Svaneke church and its natural consorts is most harmonious during the Svaneke summer but just like any union it does have its periods of gloom and sadness during the long, cold and dark winter.  The winter has passed this year like any other but unlike any other year the summer sees me sitting on this ledge contemplating my newly married moment. A hand adorned with ritual decoration gently taps me on the shoulder and a voice accompanies the hand asking if a camera can do justice to the moment.

Fast forward two years and I find myself sitting on a sofa typing this post and wondering how I can get hold of that officer from the Danish consulate in New Delhi and tell her that her country is not such a bad place for a honeymoon after all.

Image courtesy: Photo by aconcagua (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons