Denmark’s only
museum of art
in public spaces

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Nørregade 29
DK 4600 Køge
+45 56 67 60 20

Tuesday-Sunday 11-17
Monday closed
40 min from
Copenhagen H


selvforelskelse (selv)forelskelse

When a Country Falls in Love with Itself is the title of Elmgreen & Dragset’s artistic dialogue with the Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen’s world-famous sculpture, The Little Mermaid. Erected on Langelinie in 1913 as a gift to Copenhagen from brewer Carl Jacobsen, The Little Mermaid is undoubtedly the most viewed and photographed sculpture in Denmark today. The romantic sculpture is both a tourist magnet and a national symbol.

In 2008, the Danish-Norwegian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset casually placed a mirror in front of the mermaid, in which she – the symbol of the nation – self-reflects. The resulting photographic artwork, When a Country Falls in Love with Itself seemed to indicate that she, the nation, is no longer so interested in gazing out to distant shores but prefers to admire herself. Like The Little Mermaid herself, When a Country Falls in Love with Itself is now a central piece in art history, illustrating how public art functions as focal points for interactions between different viewpoints. It is an example of how contemporary art can elegantly contribute to adding new layers and narratives on top of the already existing.

In 2012, Elmgreen & Dragset once again mirrored the small sculpture with symbolic significance when they created Han for Kulturværftet in Helsingør — a male version of The Little Mermaid who gazes longingly, not at himself, but out into the world. Unlike his sister on Langelinie, who is crafted in bronze, both Han and the stone he sits on are made of polished stainless steel, reflecting the surroundings and those who look at him. And if you are lucky enough to visit the sculpture at the right time, you may experience the young man on the stone opening his eyes and blinking. With Han, Elmgreen & Dragset invites us to look at both him – Han – and ourselves with a loving, but also investigative, curious gaze. Perhaps an invitation to fall in love with something other than ourselves?

Elmgreen & Dragset are internationally renowned for creating art that addresses social and cultural questions with equal wit and subversive humour. The duo works at the intersection of art, architecture, and performance, often turning upside down the everyday arrangements and functions of both indoor and outdoor spaces and distorting ordinary elements from our shared reality. Michael Elmgreen (1961-) and Ingar Dragset (1969-) exhibit worldwide and have created several significant artworks for public spaces.

Edvard Eriksen (1876-1959) graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1899 and was an honorary professor at the academy in Carrara, Italy, from 1908. In addition to The Little Mermaid, he created the colossal statues for Christian IX, Queen Louise’s double sarcophagus in Roskilde Cathedral, and adorned the north and south facades of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. The figure of The Little Mermaid from H.C. Andersen’s fairy tale is inspired by Henri Chapu’s sculpture of Joan of Arc and the ballet dancer Ellen Price depicting the mermaid in a successful ballet at the Danish Royal Theatre from 1909-13.