The Inuit Art Quarterly is pleased to connect readers to institutions around the world with a sampling from some of the most unique holdings of Inuit art. For this spotlight on the Nuuk Kunstmuseum in Nuuk, Greenland we asked curators Nivi Christensen and Stine Lundberg Hansen to pick 5 works they believe speak to the heart of the collection.
Curator(s): Nivi Christensen, Director; Stine Lunberg Hansen, Curator
Number of works: 500+ Greenlandic Inuit (historical and contemporary)
First work(s): The collection was founded on a 2006 donation by Svend and Helene Junge, which included several hundred tupilait and other sculptural works. Svend Junge was a Danish entrepreneur who settled in Nuuk in the 1950s and began buying small tupilait from hospitalized tuberculosis patients.
Recent acquisition(s): Arctic Hysteria (1996) by Greenlandic Inuit/Danish artist Pia Arke (1958-2007)—an artist who worked extensively with archives—is the first video work in the collection.
Significant exhibitions: Revner i sjælen // Tarnip Qupineri (2016) was a solo exhibition of works by Greenlandic artist Gukki Nuka. The exhibition of self-portraits documented the artist’s childhood sexual abuse and marked the first time he had spoken openly about it. The exhibition was powerful for its ability to break down taboos.
Interesting/unique/surprising works: Writer Niviaq Korneliussen and artist Lisbeth Karline Poulsen collaborated on a piece titled Radiofjeldet (2016). The image is the result of their joint installation for the exhibition Ordet-(asiliaq) (2016), which considered the tensions around language (Greenlandic and Danish) in Greenland.
As the stewards of the largest collection of Greenlandic art that is publicly accessible, one of our main goals is to address the gaps that arise from being built on a private collection. The goal of our larger acquisition policy is to challenge and enhance our existing collection by continually adding new and different perspectives, such as the recent Arke acquisition. We also run a residency program focused on artists from the Nordic countries. As part of the program, visiting artists are required to leave one of their newly created works with the museum. These works, made in Nuuk and in relation to the collection, become an encounter between the artists, the museum and the city. — SLH
Anne Birthe Hove
Anne Birthe Hove (1951–2012) is one of Greenland’s most important artist, mastering both the ambiguous and the universal. This triptych, comprised of three large etched copper plates captures scenes of ravens and landscapes of rocks and rain. It is a sensuous work and feels alive as you stand before it–you can almost hear the rain fall and the ravens crying out. In a piece like Night Ravens Hove finds beauty in what others might not care to look at. Many artists have traveled to Greenland, only to create art of sunsets and beautiful mountains. Hove shows us much more than that.
Pia Arke (1958–2007), Arctic Hysteria (stills), 1996, video, 5:55 running time
Pia Arke (1958–2007) has been rising in popularity, in part because she was one of the first artists to work within a postcolonial context in Greenland. The videowork Arctic Hysteria acts as a comment on a photograph from one of Robert Peary’s Arctic expeditions. The image depicts two polar explorers violently restraining a Greenlandic woman. The photo allegedly documents a case of “Arctic hysteria,” a psychotic condition marked by a loss of self-control among women in the High Arctic. In the video, Arke acts the part of a woman with the condition and in that way explores the tension between exposure and voyeurism. This piece is the newest addition to museum and is one of the most challenging pieces in our collection. — NC
Frederik ”Kunngi” Kristensen
Frederik ”Kunngi” Kristensen (b. 1952), Nonfigurative Painting, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 50 cm each
Frederik ”Kunngi” Kristensen is a Greenlandic poet, musician and artist who has had to overcome presumptions and prejudices about what constitutes Greenlandic art. He is among the first to break down these stereotypes and is one of, if not the, first to produce abstract works in Greenland. Despite facing criticism for favouring non-figurative forms and therefore eschewing visually recognizable Greenlandic elements, Kunngi can help us debate ‘What makes an artwork Greenlandic’–as Kunngi has said, “My art is made in Greenland, I am Greenlandic, my education is Greenlandic, I speak Greenlandic, I was born and work in Greenland. How can my paintings not be Greenlandic?’ — NC
Kristian Fly (b. 1977), Figure, 2004, stone, 20 x 15 x 9 cm
Kristian Fly is a younger Greenlandic sculptor, working in various media including bone, tooth and stone. Fly often pushes beyond the available stone in Greenland for his sculptures, using imported colourful stone from southern Europe to achieve his delightful vision. In this piece he has made a woman working on her computer, a comment on the fact that women in Greenlandic sculpture are often portrayed cutting up seals, despite that today the majority of women in Greenland work in an office environment. This piece is a perfect example of skill, made with a strong connection to traditions but with a modern touch. — NC
Jakob Danielsen (1888–1938), Watercolours, early 20th century, watercolour, 39 x 28 cm
Jakob Danielsen wrote that you could not depict a hunting scene in just one picture. This watercolour is a part of a larger suite of four paintings and represents the earliest works on paper by a Greenlandic artist. Danielsen was part of what many call the beginning of Greenlandic art history at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, when many artists painted and illustrated their everyday lives, traditions and myths. Many of these illustrations were initiated by Danish collectors wanting to “preserve” the Greenlandic way of life. This work was chosen because it reflects this very particular period. — NC
This is a spotlight from the feature Looking at Collections: Inuit Art around the World from the Summer 2017 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.
5 Works Museum Spotlight