Klar Form 1951 – an Exhibition in Dispute

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  • Mette Højsgaard
In December 1951 the exhibition ”Klar Form” opened in Copenhagen. It was the first venue of a Scandinavian tour that included Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki. It was organized by the prolific Galerie Denise René, Paris in collaboration with the Galerie Børge Birch, Copenhagen and the Danish artists Richard Mortensen and Robert Jacobsen. The exhibition showed a mixture of the pioneers of abstract art and the younger generation including artists such as Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Alexander Calder, Auguste Herbin, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Felix Del Marle, Victor Vasarely, Jean Dewasne, Robert Jacobsen, Richard Mortensen and Serge Poliakoff.
The article will take the reception of the Copenhagen venue and the ensuing debate as its case.
“Klar Form”, semi-officially sanctioned and displayed in the Art Academy’s exhibition space in Copenhagen, promoted the French artists cultivating the so-called “concrete art” as well as Scandinavian adherents to the idiom. It could be seen as an art political statement meant to strengthen the impact of this form of art, and has gained a place in Danish art history as a momentous exhibition with great influence on the subsequent development of the abstract art of the 1950s.
However, if we look at the critique of “Klar Form” in the Danish press, the image of the exhibition’s reception becomes more nuanced and interesting. Prominent critics such as Kai Flor and Ole Sarvig found the art exhibited to be inhumane, mechanical, totalitarian and aloof, unwilling to engage with society and to contribute to humanity. The exhibition organizers, whose proclaimed intentions were exactly social and humanitarian, reacted by inviting to a debate in order to explain and defend themselves.
Mapping out the history of “Klar Form”, its reception and the debate it sparked, the picture of a “pure”, abstract art exhibition with an idealistic agenda, often described in art history, is too narrow. Instead, it was the object of a broader underlying debate on cultural politics in the early years of the Cold War and on art in society; a debate that touched on political, philosophical as well as national agendas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPERSPECTIVE actualité en histoire de l’art
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Publication statusSubmitted - 2 Dec 2018

ID: 213361205