Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art is a classic institution in the cultural life of Copenhagen and Denmark. As the oldest association of Danish artists across all genres and disciplines, it pursues a unique and distinct democratic approach to exhibiting art to create a dialogue between art, artists, and audience. Copenhagen City Pass gives you free admission to the art centre.
Unlike other art spaces and museums, the centre is owned and operated by a collective of today 53 artists with the aim of showcasing the latest and most exciting in contemporary art. This means that it’s not just a small panel of select curators who decides which art and artists should be exhibited here, but it’s the artists themselves who make that decision. Just about everyone is invited to submit their work for consideration, and the artists in charge of the centre come to a collective consensus about what should be included in the exhibitions. This approach goes back to the French idea of the Salon des Refusés and guarantees that Den Frie only showcases art that a jury of peers is truly excited about purely based on its artistic merit instead of name recognition.
The center focuses on the work of Danish and international artistic communities, associations, and experimental groups and networks that produce art that crosses traditional genre boundaries. Together with the democratic and meritocratic approach to its exhibits, Den Frie gives voice to an enormous variety of vibrant artistic perspectives and voices and invites a close dialogue and lively exchange between art, artists, and audience.
To make this exchange even more intense and to strengthen the public’s interest in contemporary art, the center organizes a wide arrange of activities in addition to the about ten exhibits it produces annually. Teaching about the world of art is an integral part of the Den Frie’s profile, and it encourages communication with its visitors to discuss art no matter their background or previous knowledge. And along with talks, seminars, guided tours, and even teaching sessions and practical workshops where visitors of all ages can discover their own inner artist.
All this happens in one of the finest examples of the Danish art nouveau movement. Originally built in 1898 by the intrepid and innovative artist J.F. Willumsen, the building was moved to its present location in the heart of Copenhagen. Since 2016, it has even been surrounded by an open sculpture garden, making it a popular destination for Copenhageners and tourists alike.
But then as now, the figure of the mythical horse Pegasus carrying a youth on his back that adorns the façade expresses Den Frie’s absolute devotion to a free expression of art.