Monday, 18 May 2009

Jubilæumsfald: Landsudstillingen 1909

CENTENNIAL FALL: THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 1909

ENGLISH TRANSLATION IN ITALICS


Valdemar Andersen: Poster for Landsudstillingen i Aarhus/the National Exhibition in Aarhus, 1909.
Designmuseum Danmark
- the photo was taken by me for study purposes hence the poor quality for which I excuse.

I nat for hundrede år siden faldt Valdemar ned fra sit stillads.

Det var kun få timer før åbningen af Landsudstillingen i Århus den 18. maj 1909, og de arbejdede i døgndrift. Han havde stået på et stige sat oven på et stillads, der igen stod oven på et stillads og arbejdet på kuplen til Tuborg-triumfbuen lige ved indgangen:

A hundred years ago tonight Valdemar Andersen fell to the ground from a scaffold.

It happened just a few hours before the formal opening of "Landsudstillingen" (The National Exhibition) in Aarhus on May 18, 1909, and everyone worked day and night to be ready on time. Valdemar had been standing on a wooden ladder placed on top of a wooden scaffold, which in turn stood atop another wooden scaffold while he was working on the dome of the Tuborg triumphal arch at the entrance:


Photo: TV2 Østjylland

- And a very grainy detail to spot the globe of "Tuborg Beer"
and the frontispiece of the arc.


Frygtindgydende faldhøjde / A terrifying height to take a fall from.


Valdemar var et lillebitte slangemenneske, der brugte nedløbsrør som trappestige, når han skulle overraske sine venner i deres kvistlejligheder (om han benyttede samme vej til sin egen lejlighed på kvisten har ingen fortalt os for eftertiden). Men selv den mest adrætte kan træde forkert i sin træthed: Han faldt ned kl. 2 om natten...

Af et rent held faldt han få meter fra et rækværk, der ville have slået ham ihjel på stedet. Han faldt direkte på blød (= våd, det regnede konstant det år) jord og reddede sig med at slå sig halvt fordærvet. På vejen til hospitalet havde hans konstante ord været et vredt "uforsvarligt, uforsvarligt!", fordi sikkerheden havde været så dårlig.

Valdemar was a tiny contortionist who would be using downspouts for a ladder when he wished to surprise friends in their attic apartment (whether he ever used the same road upwards to reach his own apartment in an attic is no longer known). But even the most agile can make one wrong fatigued step: He fell to the ground a few hours after midnight...

Luck had it that he fell a few meters from a fence that would have killed him on the spot. He plunged directly onto the soft (= wet, it rained constantly that year) soil. He broke next to everything in the left side on his body, but his life was saved. On the way to the hospital his constant words were reported to have been the angry outburst: "reckless, irresponsible!" in that safety had been so massively neglected.


Photo: The Weekly Hver8Dag, 1909.
Valdemar var hovedkunstneren på Landsudstillingen med omkring 10 mand konstant i arbejde gennem et halvt år. Det er Valdemar med kasket markeret med rødt.


Valdemar was the leading artist on the National Exhibition with about 10 men working for him for six months. Valdemar is marked in red, wearing a cap:

Kongen tog direkte fra den formelle åbning til hospitalet for at besøge den forslåede og gebrækkede kunstner, for opgaven havde været så omfattende, at han var blevet udstillingens stjerne. Hvad, de to mænd talte om, er forblevet en hemmelighed, som Ekstra-Bladet rapporterede. Samme hovedstadsblad var fornærmet over, at Valdemar end ikke blev nævnt i åbningstalen, hvor borgmesteren satte fokus på sin egen by. Politiken mente snarere, at det var svært overhovedet at høre efter, når borgmesteren til forveksling lignede den politiker og minister, der netop var blevet sat bag lås og slå: Alberti. 

The king headed directly to the hospital from the formal opening to visit the bruised and ruptured artist. His work had been so extensive that he had become the star of the exhibition. What the two men talked about has remained a secret as the newspaper "Extra Bladet" reported. The same paper based in the capital was offended that Valdemar had not even been mentioned in the opening speech in which the mayor focused on his own city. "Politiken" another major newspaper based in Copenhagen thought it rather difficult to even listen to the mayor when he so confusingly resembled the former politician and minister who had just been put behind bars: Alberti.


Photo: The Weekly Hver8Dag, 1909.
På Landsudstillingen som ved enhver anden opgave var stilladserne af træ lavet til lejligheden:


At The National Exhibition as with any other monumental assignment a scaffold was constructed in situ. Entirely of wood as already mentioned:



Valdemar Andersen: The final sketches for the two frontispieces at the Tuborg triumphal arc,
the one affronting the entrance shows fashionable people toasting,
while the gods were seen drinking on the other side.
Designmuseum Denmark.
- the photo was taken by me for study purposes hence the poor quality for which I excuse.
Bemærk, hvordan de lige akkurat har et brædt bag ryggen, hvor de arbejder. End ikke bundbrædderne ser videre solide ud. Man forstår den af malersvendene, som følte at have tilbragt hele foråret i en vuggende jolle, når træet har bevæget sig under dem 3/4 af døgnets timer.

Note how they have but a strip of board behind them while working. Not even the boards underneath them look solid. Afterwards one of his men wrote to Valdemar how he felt he had spent the entire spring in a wobbly boat. The wood had been moving with their every move underneath them for 12-18 hours a day.

Men slutmålet blev fantastisk - de stærkeste farver og frækkeste sammensætninger af dagens politikere (Alberti undtaget) sat i antikke rammer i en farveskala af lilla og gult eksempelvis. Hvor nyt, det var tænkt, oplever vi alene gennem Udstillingens hovedplakat. Alle de indkomne forslag var af denne karakter:

But the final outcome was fantastic. Such as one of the boldest compositions imaginable on the politicians of the day (Alberti excluded) in an antique setting of purples and yellows. The novelty of it on Danish ground is made obvious when compared to the bids for the central poster for the exhibition. All the bids received from other artists were of this nature:        

Mor Danmark, vikingeslyng, higen, længsel og tendens til gråd over fortabte Landssoldater. Alt, hvad Udstillingens ansvarlige ville væk fra. Så Valdemar påtog sig også plakaten - i guld, rødt og grønt, som en dynamisk fanfare, der førte direkte ind i hjertet af Århus.



Mother Denmark, interweaving patterns inspired by the Vikings, declarations of yearning, longing and a tendency to tearing up at the thought of the young lost in war. Everything that the architect responsible for the exhibition had wanted to get rid of. So Valdemar took it upon him to do the poster too - in gold, red and green as a dynamic fanfare leading directly to the heart of Aarhus.


Valdemar Andersen: Detail from the poster for
Landsudstillingen i Aarhus/the National Exhibition in Aarhus, 1909.
Designmuseum Danmark
- the photo was taken by me for study purposes hence the poor quality for which I excuse.


I disse dage åbner Århus fejringen af Landsudstillingens 100-års jubilæum. I mellemtiden har fokus flyttet sig fra Land til By, hvilket har sin raison. Udstillingsformen med dens gigantiske areal af alt, hvad industri og varietéer kunne byde på, sang på sidste vers i de første tiår af det 20. århundrede, og denne udstilling kom ud på den anden side med et substantielt underskud bundet i halen: der var simpelt hen ikke et tilstrækkeligt publikumsgrundlag til at få pengene hjem. 

Men var formen ved at være forældet, betød selve placeringen af Udstillingen alt for Århus by. Det blev en lejlighed til at definere byens selvstændige værdi med dens fremtidige muligheder, nutid og historie. At Den Gamle By blev grundlagt her - midt i den levende by - er et billede på den ikonværdi, Udstillingen skabte for Århus. 

Århus har meget at fejre. Valdemar vil dog knapt blive nævnt, for han var jo københavner.

Aarhus is about to initiate the centennial celebrations of the National Exhibition. In the meanwhile the focus has shifted from the national element to that of the city itself which has its raison. This type of exhibitions with its gigantic proportions showing off what the industry and the world of the burlesque could offer was on its last legs in the first decade of the 20th century. This particular show emerged on the other side with a substantial deficit: The needed amounts of guests were simply not met to win back the money spent on it all.

But if exhibitions were fast becoming obsolete, the location of this exhibition meant everything to Aarhus as a city. It was an opportunity to define the values of the city independently of Copenhagen and delineate its future possibilities, its here and now and its history. The Open Air Museum was founded here - in the middle of the living city – as one instance of the iconic value Aarhus gained from The Exhibition.

Aarhus has a lot to celebrate. Valdemar will but rarely be mentioned. He was after all a Copenhagener.


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Layer upon Layer of Memories



Sirens are one of the most physically laden sounds a society has to offer. From roof to roof they form a connecting pattern to the extent that we HEAR the expanse of the city. They are a proof of our vulnerability and they hurt when they sound.

Valdemar Andersen: drawings of fashionable people in his neighborhood,
 all printed in Politiken 1908.
While the sirens have just had their annual test run and will hopefully will not be heard until next May in Copenhagen, it is a rather befitting occasion to drop by the house in which Valdemar Andersen used to live. He shared a home with his Juliane, their son Ib and the latter's half-brother Povl in the attic of Nr. 16 at Maglekildevej at Frederiksberg. Frederiksberg is an independent constituency within central Copenhagen.

The year written on the wall: 1897 tells us about a new district anno 1900 whereto artists and the bourgeoisie alike moved in while dance pavilions, theaters and cafées kept popping up in next to every street. I grew up a few hundred meters further down the Frederiksberg Avenue, where the city's first movie theater was once be found while my school once housed a brothel.

The district is no longer new. It is now a well-founded community within the larger city to an extent, that the building complex Alléparken from the 1950s right opposite no. 16 resembles a bright scar that cuts through Frederiksberg Avenue when looking up Maglekildevej on Google Earth.

Maglekildevej has a special air to it of being a quiet and sunny street still all there from around 1897 and yet fractured between then and now due to an event, which became a shared memory in Copenhagen. Ask anyone and they have a story to tell from March 21, 1945 when the French school opposite No. 16 was bombed. 


Valdemar's home is the only house still standing from his own time. All other buildings either took a direct bomb hit or were caught in the wave of fire that followed. But No. 16 rises with an almost iconic sloping corner at each photo from that fatal day, when all were running in to help, dig out the dead children, climbing across and helping the wounded through the flames - and the sense of the chaotic, thundering noise to be seen even in the photos.

Photo from www.alleparken.dk (06.05.2009)
- the most chilling photos are those on the silence that ensued.
When next to nothing was left.


No. 16 was bruised. On the photos from the summer of 1945 the outer wall is supported by boards while everyone was taking a deep breath before plunging into the discussion whether to rebuild Maglekildevej. Would it be immoral to build atop a place where so many children had been killed? By then Valdemar and Juliane were no longer around. Valdemar had died in 1928 and Juliane moved to Fredensborg. Ib was in Fredensborg too, while Povl was on the other side of the world, by then a naturalized Brazilian.

But their house is still here to the inspiration of new generations of children in the Alléparken that resulted. No. 16 has a round window in which a goblin is said to be living. Naturally!


Monday, 4 May 2009

Åge Pedersen In Memoriam


I fredags mistede vi en af de sidste mennesker, som har arbejdet sammen med Valdemar: Åge Pedersen var kun 16 år, da han var malersvend på udsmykningen af Hundslund Kirkes loft. I et nyt årtusind var han stadig lige så nærværende og åndsfrisk til at fortælle detaljer omkring store dekorationsarbejder, som ellers ville være gået tabt.

Åge ses her som 96-årig i 2006


Han fortalte, hvordan tømreren henne om hjørnet bankede et træstillads sammen, som kunne flyttes rundt efter behov. Så når en sektion var færdigdekoreret, kom fire stærke tømrersvende og flyttede stilladset med Valdemar øverst til næste del af loftet. Valdemar havde kun en uge til at nå arbejdet, og når nu det ligefrem ikke var nødvendigt at klatre ned undervejs, kunne der spares kostbar arbejdstid.

Kun når præsten overtog prædikestolen, måtte arbejdet lægges til side, som han selv skrev hjem. Så lyttede han til prædikenen og gik igang igen bagefter.

Gennem Åge Pedersen fik vi endog en forklaring på Valdemars alt for tidlige død, for der blev brugt opløsninger til farven, som var lige så giftige, som Valdemar og hans mænd selv blev misfarvede - og dertil tegnede Åge Pedersen mønsteret op for os, som loftet fik. For i dag eksisterer kun et eneste foto, hvor man med god vilje og ømme øjne kan se et hjørne af det nymalede loft.

Jeg er utroligt ked af, at Valdemarbogen ikke nåede at udkomme, så Åge Pedersen selv kunne få den i hænderne. Men han er en meget vigtig del af bogen og vil indgå i kunsthistorien som kilde til Valdemars kunst. 

Åge Pedersen var en stærk personlighed, der insisterede på livet og glæden. Han vil blive forfærdeligt savnet - men hvor var det dog et privilegium at få lov at møde ham. TAK Åge!


Saturday, 2 May 2009

Sådan genkender man en Valdemar

Kære Bruun-Rasmussen,

For ikke så længe siden havde I en Valdemar Andersen til salg: en gammel fisker, gennemført med hvidt lagt i hver en rynke. Udmærket i sig. Blot ikke en Valdemar Andersen. 

Nu er han atter til salg, Auktion 920, Århus, som nr. 717. Og atter under de samme data.

Og jo, den er skam en Valdemar Andersen, blot ikke HAM, ikke hans årstal, som I atter har sat ved tegningen.

Så skolemesteren må gå til tavlen: Der findes hele tre Valdemarer fra samme tid. Valdemar var et modenavn anno 1870+/-, eftersom det klingede af national fortidig storhed med ridderrustning, flag, der drysser fra himlen, undskyld Himlen, og vovemod uden skelen til fornuften.

Men selvom der var flere navnefæller, der blev kunstnere, er der afgrundsdyb forskel mellem dem - og det er at se med det blotte øje. For den Valdemar, der nu er til salg, er resultatet af et lidt for langt ophold på Kunstakademiet under Professor Vermehren. Nu lader den udbudte Valdemar sig ikke gengive her på siden (eller rettere: det vil ikke lykkes for mig:-) så lad os i stedet gå direkte til lærermesteren: 

Flid, omhyggelighed og ikke en rynke for lidt tegnet med ind:




Og det var aldrig VORES Valdemar. Han stak af fra Akademiet i tide. Og hans portrætter fra 1920erne (den udbudte er fra 1923) kunne ikke være mere forskellige: De var teknisk FRÆKKE. Hvidt højlys er noget, der lægges i brede strøg, som får modellen til at bevæge sig for vores øjne. Vi fornemmer sårbarhed, vi lærer den unge pige at kende i kvinden. Hun lever foran os på den anden side af et århundrede:
 
              

Slut på lektionen. Sidst reddede jeg jer på selveste auktionsdagen, men den stakkels højestbydende har ikke nået at opdage rettelsen. Så nu er den her igen til salg. Kan vi så få lov at slippe for halvblinde vurderinger uden respekt for hverken jeres bydende eller de udbudte kunstnere?

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