The exhibition BEHNCKE-HEERUP-HILDEBRANDT is a collaborative venture between Vendsyssel Museum of Art, Hjørring, and the Heerup Museum, Rødovre, focusing attention on the interchange between three influential Danish artists: Søren Behncke (b.1967), Henry Heerup (1907–1993), and Kristian Hildebrandt (1924–2011).

These three artists have, in different ways, addressed contemporary consumer and ‘throw-away’ culture. Thus, Hildebrandt combined shattered watches, coins, and nails with nature in the form of amber and tree roots. Heerup was inspired by everyday objects like lamp shades, bike parts, coffee pots, and a gramophone horn, nailing everything together to form three-dimensional structures while Behncke, in particular, is preoccupied with cardboard as an expression of modern consumer mentality: packaging consumer goods like flat screens and sending them round the world. Common to the method of the three artists is their choice of material as an integral part of the work and the accumulation of materials. 

Our ambition is that, in the encounter between the three artists who, in different ways, have been pioneers in their use of reusable materials, new and previously unrelated narratives will emerge, encouraging visitors to reflect. This unique juxtaposition indicates a distinct eye for materiality, for sustainability in art, and an inspiring freedom of artistic method.

Another common point of reference is the artists’ work with symbolism; both conventional ones such as the heart and the cross as well as self-invented symbols emerging through repetition. Behncke’s picture series are, in themselves, living proof of how repetition as a method provides a fluid movement from motif to symbol.

Both Heerup and Hildebrandt used symbols to add meaning to the works and to catch the attention of viewers via familiar motifs. In this way, they achieved an immediate legibility and a broad popular appeal while still retaining the complexity of art. As part of the curatorial presentation, coincidental motifs and themes relative to Behncke’s contemporary comments will be brought into play. 

So, common to the three artists is a fundamental predilection for reusable materials, shared methods, and a unique aesthetic of reuse, deliberately breaking down barriers between high and low culture, one-off and mass-produced objects. Furthermore, an integral part of all three artists is the interrelationship of symbols, humour, and gravity.

BEHNCKE-HEERUP-HILDEBRANDT is accompanied by a richly illustrated publication in Danish and English featuring, for example, educational texts written by the curator Kathrine Hejborg Kristensen, Vendsyssel Museum of Art, and Anni Lave Nielsen, museum director at the Heerup Museum.