Designmuseum Danmark Reopens in Copenhagen

Tracing the history of design inside and out, this iconic institution returns after a two-year renovation

After two years of careful renovation done in collaboration with local practice OEO Studio, Designmuseum Danmark reopened in Copenhagen this past weekend during the latest edition of the city’s 3daysofdesign event. The museum is housed in an 18th-century rococo hospital in the central neighborhood of Frederiksstaden, which was transformed into a museum by architects Ivar Bentsen and Kaare Klint in the 1920s.

Courtesy of Designmuseum Danmark/Rasmus Hjortshøj

For its return, director Anne-Louise Sommer and a team of international curators put together a series of eight temporary exhibitions showcasing over a century of Danish and global design. The curation demonstrates a search for connections between disciplines that include textile, carpentry, pottery and much more.

Courtesy of Designmuseum Danmark/Luka Hesselberg

Perhaps surprisingly, visitors enter the museum through the gift shop, which has been entirely redesigned by OEO Studio. Dark wooden tables and cabinetry contrast with the light, natural hues of the walls and the marble floor—a characteristic that’s carried throughout the building.

by Paolo Ferrarini

The first rooms are home to an exhibition by Spacon&X (a Copenhagen-based design and architecture studio) called The Future is Present, on until 1 June 2023. It’s separated into the three sections—Human, Society and Planet+—all of which present various concepts surrounding future scenarios (from climate refugees to pandemics) and illustrate questions, problems, solutions and more. The setup is open and playful, utilizing Danish seaweed, paper, concrete, reused plastic, mirrors and mycelium.

The final part of this exhibit, a section called “Shaping the Future,” showcases objects from the museum’s permanent collection: innovative products such as mobile phones, concept cars, robots and Bjork’s 1999 video for “All Is Full Of Love,” directed by Chris Cunningham. These pieces illustrate our view of the future, back then—and prompt viewers to ruminate on where they led us.

by Paolo Ferrarini

Next, an exhibition area entitled AKUT is dedicated to emerging talent within different fields. On now until 30 September, AKUT #1 presents work by Danish fashion designers who focus on durability and sustainability, who aim to create the antithesis of fast fashion. Underlining the importance of time, garments by Artikel Købenavn, Sur Le Chemin, La Femme Russe and Lærke Baggeris are presented in 17th-century iron-bound oak chests or modular cupboards from the 1950s by Grete Meyer and Børge Mogensen.

by Paolo Ferrarini

From multimedia artist, designer and musician Henrik Vibskov, Powerful Patterns (on now through 31 December 2025) exists as a world of decoration. From ancient linear patterns crafted with warp and weft weaving to contemporary digital prints, the space overflows with colors, textures and motifs—all depicting the ways in which they occur naturally and the ways that humans seek to create them.

Courtesy of Designmuseum Danmark

Wonder, also on through 31 December 2025, comprises big and small marvels from the museum’s archives—exploring the idea of “how a thing becomes an object” once it’s placed in a glass case in a museum or behind a frame in a private collection. There are historic chairs displayed as if they were still in the warehouse, a collection of snuff boxes presented in a futuristic high-tech vitrine, an astounding collection of hundreds of tsuba (Japanese sword ornaments) and more.

Courtesy of Designmuseum Danmark/Niels Fabæk

It’s in The Magic of Form, on now through 20 August 2023, that visitors take a journey through design from the 20th century, when the world of Scandinavian designers pioneered and prevailed with its dedication to simplicity, functionalism and craft. This extensive selection of furniture, lighting, crafts, visual arts and architecture was shown in 2021 at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, but is now enriched by pieces from Designmuseum Danmark’s own collection.

Beyond these shows, there is LITTLE TABLE, COVER THYSELF! which is named for the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, The Wishing Table. This exhibit traces table settings from the Renaissance to today. There’s also Danish Silver, a small yet stunning display of fine silver pieces. Finally, there’s In The Making, a room dedicated to the process where visitors learn about working with various materials to design and create everyday objects.

Courtesy of Designmuseum Danmark/Niels Fabæk

Steeped in history, Designmuseum Danmark traces design across time—from its ornate reliefs, carved in the 1750s, to Klint’s staircases and built-in cabinets, and all the wondrous creations that are on display now. This thoughtful renovation respects and celebrates the past, while deftly looking into the future.

Hero image courtesy of Designmuseum Danmark/Niels Fabæk