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VM inspiration: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen

Given the link between museum display and VM first observed by John Wanamaker, owner of the eponymous Pennsylvania department store and benefactor of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it is always interesting for VM professionals to look at best practice in contemporary museum display.

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen is a lovely example. Formed from the collection of the son of the Carlsberg brewery founder, Glyptotek is Copenhagen’s primary art museum. It includes sculpture from the Mediterranean, the Danish Golden Age and French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections.

lassical sculpture has been arrayed much as it might be in a quality home store, in rows inviting ‘compare and contrast’ observations. A well-made, unfinished-wood table and the plinth behind it are made of different woods. Both have detailing taken from classical architecture in keeping with the displayed sculpture.

These, together with the variety of marble stands on which the heads rest, contribute textural contrast to the display. The soft green wall behind adds a little colour so that the whole display appears interesting and lively, losing the bleakly ‘serious’ aspect that Greek and Roman sculpture so often has when displayed in museums.

In another gallery, containing larger pieces, China blue walls contrast with a taupe-tiled floor with semi-classical detailing. A collection of related shapes and sizes, the large plinths allow visitors to walk around every exhibit. A few chosen pieces placed in the central aisle break up the uniform aspect of the gallery. This is a great idea for any relatively narrow retail space where an apparent corridor tends to be too quickly transited. Copenhagen is as famous as Delft for its blue-and-white Royal Copenhagen ceramics and this may have inspired the choice of wall colour.                                                

These small bronze figures are almost casually displayed on unfinished wooden shelving, almost as though they had been placed on a version of Ikea’s Albert shelving system. This time the China blue wall has a classical treatment, with everything below the dado rail picked out in white. The proportion seems to echo the height of the lowest shelf, conveying a considered and fresh look to the bronzes. Note the parquet floor: here is the original of the taupe tile pattern in the image above.

In the same gallery, a complete collection of Degas dancers twirls in a frozen moment on a solid wooden plinth. In the background the Ionic marble pillars of the older part of the museum are visible, with the door picked out in a deeper blue. The strong blues contribute to the clean, smart impression created by the museum interior. These are the very opposite of dusty, forgotten galleries.

In the museum store, where the merchandise focuses on books, the shelving is dresser-style, with more strong colour highlighting a row of plaster heads above the shelves.

In a last image, the smaller edition sculpture copies are securely displayed in glass-fronted wooden cabinets which match the museum shop bookshelves: both dust and damage free. It is interesting that the sculpture is displayed in the open in the galleries, yet the limited or unlimited edition copies are displayed under glass. Perhaps this says something about how differently visitors treat the exhibits and the merchandise in the store?

Photographs by Daren Neave, Little Artists