Exhibiting Across the Iron Curtain

The forgotten trail of Danish artists exhibiting in the context of state socialism, ca. 1955-1985

A new research project searching the traces of Danish artists on the other side of the Iron Curtain and highlighting exhibitions as zones of contact in the divided Europe.

Bronislaw Kierzkowski: The Sun (1967) Aalborg. Photo: Kristian Handberg 2020.

The project will perform the first-ever investigation of the active involvement of Danish artists in the art world of socialism during the Cold War. Through a survey of exhibitions in art and design based on transfers between Denmark and state socialist countries, ca. 1955-1985, the project seeks to answer the question: How did numerous Danish artists actively exhibit across the Iron Curtain?

This will lead to a new understanding of the centrality of the exhibition as an international meeting point and the configuration of Danish art in a time of new international orientations, setting up a new perspective on the formation of the global contemporary art world.


This is not a story of dreary socialist realism by party-loyal communists or art as a propaganda weapon dictated by the central committee. Instead, the project’s mapping and analysis will cover a range of artistic styles and underlying motivations. This will include a cast of well-known Danish artists such as Svend Engelund, Henry Heerup, Asger Jorn and Svend Wiig-Hansen. We will see the most ambitious art festival of the GDR in Rostock with intensive Danish participation (Biennale der Ostseeländer, Rostock 1965-), the global forum of Graficni Bienale in Ljubljana (1955-), and how a cast of Polish sculptors visited Aalborg in 1967. Often, participants and organizers are still alive and will be able to contribute with valuable information, supported by archival studies.

After critical research has revealed the American influence on artistic practice and Cold War positions from the Western perspective, we will try to investigate motivations and movements for presenting art in the communist countries. Central here is an understanding of the exhibition itself as a zone of transit and contact – often working in official as well as unofficial ways.





Danish artists in the Soviet Union and Tintin, interview with Kristian Handberg in 'Frederiks Værk' at 24syv (in Danish)  

New research sheds light on Dea Trier Mørch, interview with Kristian Handberg in Politiken 11 February 2024 (in Danish)

Rostock: The forgotten art sanctuary during the Cold War, interview with Kristian Handberg 13 February 2024 (in Danish)







Name Title Phone E-mail
Handberg, Kristian Assistant Professor +4535334869 E-mail