The Admiral Hotel, where old world meets new, in Copenhagen.
Tue, Nov 27, 2012
Denmark: An Art Lover's Getaway
An art odyssey in search of a great Dane, Anna Ancher.
D.C. is having a Denmark moment. Danish painter and sculptor Per Kirkeby is at the Phillips Collection through Jan. 6. Danish dance is a highlight of the Nordic Cool arts festival, which settles into the Kennedy Center, Feb. 19−March 17. And in February, the National Museum of Women in the Arts will mount the first international retrospective of the most amazing artist you’ve probably never heard of, Danish painter Anna Ancher (her work is below). She was the most modern of a now-famous group of plein-air painters based in Skagen, a fiercely gorgeous fishing village at the northernmost tip of Denmark.
More than just the home of mid-century icons like the Swan chair and artichoke lamp, Denmark deserves a top spot on any design buff’s bucket list.
First stop, the capital—one of Europe’s most walkable cities—and the elegant, Old World–meets-new Admiral Hotel (admiral-hotel-copenhagen.com; from $139). This 1787 shipping warehouse has the air of a contemporary monastery gone nautical. At night, I tuck myself into the crisp linens in my room’s two-story berth, feeling as if I’m on an airy cruise ship. I hear boats’ distant moans in the fog. The traditional Danish breakfast buffet of rye breads, herring, meat, fruit, yogurt and cheese starts the morning perfectly.
I walk to Nørreport train station and travel 40 minutes north to woodsy Louisiana Museum, a high temple of modern art set on dramatic coastline overlooking next-door Sweden. This glass-and-wood museum was cited in Patricia Schultz’s book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Yes, you must.
Denmark’s second city is a half-day’s drive across an island and bridges, past giant silver windmills that make your heart race. The nice GPS Lady gets me there easily (after a stop at Hans Christian Andersen’s house in Odense). My destination was ARoS museum, famous for its rooftop “Your Rainbow Panorama” installation by half-Danish art rock star Olafur Eliasson. The top of the building has an enclosed, permanent circular tinted-glass walkway so that you walk around and around in a meditation of shifting color. I stay at the Helnan Marselis Hotel (helnan.info/helnan-marselis-hotel/dk; from $311), situated along a small beach with panoramic bay views, and just a 15-minute drive from the museum.
I’m as far north as it gets in Denmark and, again, on the beach. I check into the Color Hotel Skagen (skagenhotel.dk; from $182), sophisticated with its excellent restaurant, outdoor pool and light-filled conference rooms named after local painters. A quick five-minute drive gets me to the Skagens Museum, cozy and sunlit, filled with Anna and her crowd’s paintings of fishermen, each other and Anna’s family.
The Anchers’ home, command central of this art scene, is across the street. I wander through its furnished rooms, studying the photos of Anna’s Virginia Woolf-like face and the household details that populate her works. The way she considered light and captured domestic scenes in blocks of color is astonishing, even now.