In the summer month of 2020 ARoS Aarhus Art Museum will be staging the mega-exhibition Mythologies – The Beginning and End of Civilizations. The exhibition covers more than 3000 square metres in three of the museum’s gallery spaces. Around hundred-and-fifty works loaned from seventeen countries will be on show. Highlights include a large array of classical paintings, sculptures, modern installation art, video works, photographs, and posters.
Dividing and uniting narratives
The work to organise this exhibition already began during the planning of the ARoS Triennial The Garden – End of Times, Beginning of Times from 2017. This exhibition revolved around man’s relationship with nature while Mythologies – The Beginning and End of Civilizations focuses on mutual human relationships. Thus, the purpose of the exhibition is to expose the myths and narratives which, through various historical epochs, have supported society and bolstered communities while also leading to destruction, war, and fragmentation.
- The exhibition addresses myths and narratives in times of unrest. In the case of Christianity, for example, it’s about the fragmentation between Catholicism and Protestantism and about how new narratives emerge out of this, giving rise to new philosophies of life and ways to understand society. It’s in times of upheaval that we discover precisely the values that are on stake and it’s at this point that many new values emerge, says Erlend G. Høyersten, museum director, ARoS.
From Greek myths to the welfare state
The narrative of Mythologies – The Beginning and End of Civilizations begins with the Greek myths where the divine assumes human form. From here, the exhibition proceeds to Christianity with Genesis, Doomsday scenarios, the Reformation, and Counter-Reformation to neo-classicism and a political idiom where the narrative expressed in art shifts from being religious to becoming political. The exhibition also addresses Nordic mythology including the myths about the afterlife, female figures such as Venus and Cleopatra, bringing us on to totalitarianism, Hitler and Nazism, and other totalitarian regimes. The overall narrative of this exhibition concludes with the welfare state, now a widespread narrative about our common Nordic societies.
- With this exhibition, we’d like visitors to respond to and learn about the myths and narratives that underlie the foundations of present-day society – a society that includes us all and to which everyone contributes. That’s to say the stories that define who we are. It’s a very important exhibition, especially in these times of climate crisis, fake news, and increasing polarisation. It’s about making visitors see and understand why things become what they are, continues Erlend G. Høyersten
Classical heavyweights and modern contemporary art
On level 5, visitors can experience classical paintings by artists including Peter Paul Rubens, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Jan Brueghel the Younger, Wilhelm Marstrand, and C.W. Eckersberg alongside installation art by Helene Nymann, for example. The gallery spaces on level 1 and 0 show different kinds of modern contemporary art by e.g. Anri Sala, Anselm Kiefer, Kader Attia, Shana Moulton, Marguerite Humeau, and Pauline Curnier Jardin.
- The exhibition presents striking works by great classical and contemporary artists. We have included paintings dating as far back as the sixteenth century. There is a broad selection of works and visitors will experience how both past and present artists, for various reasons and via different art forms, have ultimately locked on to the ancient myths, which form our common background, says Jakob Vengberg Sevel, curator, ARoS.
Curator-in-charge: Jakob Vengberg Sevel, ARoS
Knud Højgaards Fond
MD Fine Art