Fatamorgana: Utzon meets Jorn

New life to the fabled unbuilt Silkeborg Museum project in Utzon Center’s new exhibition: FATAMORGANA - Utzon meets Jorn

Utzon Center, Aalborg, recently opened their newest exhibition - FATAMORGANA - about Jørn Utzon’s mythical unbuilt project for Silkeborg Museum intended to house the art and private collection of the Danish expressionist painter Asger Jorn. The exhibition unfolds the museum, which never was realised. A museum where art meets architecture and Utzon and Jorn worked on the edge of the possible!

FATAMORGANA takes you into a story, a fantasy, which shows in glimpses the museum that today, more than 50 years later, stands as one of the greatest mirages in the history of architecture, with its large onion-like building structures buried in the landscape. Architects have been admiring the original drawings of its genius winding ramps and spectacular spatial interconnections for decades; therefore, Utzon Center are proud to presents the mirage exhibition: FATAMORGANA.

There are very few museums which have been created in direct dialogue between the architect and the artist, as was the case with the Silkeborg project. Today we perhaps see it in glimpses at ARoS in Aarhus with Olafur Eliasson’s Rainbow and SHL’s architecture, or we see it when James Turrell entirely changes the experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York with his captivating light installations.


We are interested in the walls, not in order to position ornamentation, but to spread ourselves out beyond the framework the picture frame makes for us, to wherever need takes us. - Asger Jorn 1944

This is the fundamental idea regarding the Gesamtkunstwerk, in which architecture and art together create a new, mutual space of experience.

FATAMORGANA wants to pinpoint the Silkeborg project as an architectural masterpiece, but just as much its ideological intensions importance in the history of museum architecture.

The exhibition team have sought to unveil the story of the museum project through three narrative paths:

1. The Project Story - Two Giants Meet

Jørn Utzon met Asger Jorn during a holiday in Italy in 1961; Jorn at that time worked from his home in Albisola. It was the beginning of a collaboration which lasted for almost 12 years until Jorn’s death in 1973. There was a mutual fascination between the artist and the architect, who both found much inspiration in nature, in non-Western cultures, and in everyday life.

I can see no other Dane at the moment who would be able to create a building which has an intimate relationship to the form of artistic representation which the collection represents. I would happily finance such a sketch by Utzon. - Asger Jorn in a letter to Silkeborg Museum’s director, 1961

Jørn Utzon was at the time engaged in building his masterpiece in Sydney, and Asger Jorn was at the peak of his international career. They were both concerned not to be governed by particular tendencies or isms in architecture and art. They both looked within their field for inspiration from many areas and were amongst those who set the agenda in post-war art and architecture. Had their mutual project attained its final form, they would perhaps also have influenced the way we exhibit and create spaces for art.

I am deeply fascinated and terribly excited... . We need to go a step further in incorporating it (relief) in the building, preferably to the same extent as in some of the best Mayan things, where it was impossible for me to say whether the individual building components (stone) were architecture or sculpture, and furthermore their literary content and thus the atmosphere they created was also inextricably connected to the site and the building’s function – to put it briefly, all these things attained a fully formed unity. We must try to reach that point! - Jørn Utzon in a letter to Asger Jorn, 1964

The mutual museum project challenged the meeting of art and architecture and found inspiration in architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Frederick Kiesler and Eric Mendelsohn. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim had just opened in New York, Utzon was trying to get Le Corbusier to decorate the Opera House in Sydney, and Jorn was inspired by Frederick Kiesler’s work with displaying art in new ways at Art of This Century in New York as well as in the sketches for his Endless House project. The museum project also drew inspiration from the ancient Tatung caves in China, the temples in Mexico, and from the Nordic earth and nature, with a myriad resulting spatial and geometrical potentialities - all with the aim of creating a space for Jorn’s large art collection featuring pictures by the most important pre- and post—World War II artists. In particular Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier and Picasso, whom they both met and in some cases worked with independently of each other.

2. Museum Architecture and Art

In the exhibition the exterior narrative frame consists of a large series of museum projects telling the story of how we have shaped buildings for art. This has occurred from the first cave paintings in the south of France, through the first real buildings for art in Japan and Greece, to the explosion of public museums in the 20th and 21st centuries, which can be divided into a number of categories. We are familiar with many of the museums in Denmark from Thorvaldsen’s Museum and Faaborg Museum to Louisiana, Kunsten, Heart and ARoS. We are familiar with even more internationally, such as the Guggenheim in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and the very newest such as SFMOMA in San Francisco, to name just a few. The question is how we should understand these many buildings and the way in which they create space for art. In a few cases the architecture is shaped to particular artists, in others the architecture becomes so expressive that it takes over the importance of the art, while in quite other cases it is the art which becomes the architecture. Common to them is that most of the buildings were created without the meeting of the artist and the architect, but as the project of the museum directors and the architect. This is not a problem, but means that historically we must miss out on a different and mutual view of art and architecture, such as that for which Utzon and Jorn strove.

3. New digital mirages

Jørn Utzon’s 13 original sketches for Asger Jorn’s Silkeborg Museum are beautiful and dreamy, and display his spatial imaginativeness and at the same time demonstrates his rigorous geometrical control over curved forms.

Utzon wanted to “provide something that cannot be achieved with right-angled architecture. Ship hulls, caves and sculpture prove this”, something, which spatiality have mind-boggled Architects ever since.

Thanks to Utzon’s rational and mathematically ruled geometry, it has been possible to recreate a clearer spatial understanding of the original drawings through digital modelling.

The establishment of a precise 3d-model have enabled the exhibition team to communicate the immense amount information and create an opportunity to experience the project in a new ways.

1. Digital fabricated models

2. Digital visualization and animation

Be modern,
collectors, museums.
If you have old paintings,
do not despair.
Retain your memories
but detourn them
so that they correspond with your era.
Why reject the old
if one can modernize it
with a few strokes of the brush?
This casts a bit of contemporaneity
on your old culture.
Be up to date,
and distinguished
at the same time.
Painting is over.
You might as well finish it off.
Long live painting.
On the task of modern artists, Asger Jorn (1959)

At Utzon Center we believe that it is at the edge of the possible that the magic arises. Welcome to FATAMORGANA, where Utzon meets Jorn.

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Cite: "Fatamorgana: Utzon meets Jorn" 26 Jun 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/789985/fatamorgana-utzon-meets-jorn> ISSN 0719-8884

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