Floating Art in Vejle

Contemporary art and water sports are not exactly two subjects which immediately spring to mind as being mutually complementary. However, in the wonderful setting of Vejle harbour in Jutland (Denmark), large-scale works of art have been thoughtfully placed out in the fjord… and the only way to appreciate them fully is by kayak or canoe.

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This is the second time that Vejle (pronounced something like “Vai-La”) has hosted a “floating art” exhibition – twelve works of art from twelve different artists – and during a 90-minute tour in English we were able to get up close to these sculptures in a unique way. Thanks to our guide, Lars, we learned that these pieces are not only beautiful, but they also explore a wide range of thought-provoking and topical issues.

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“Væreise med udsigt” (“A room with a view“) – One of Vejle’s “floating art” installations

The tour starts in the shadow of Vejle’s most recent – and most striking – architectural development: five harmonious interconnected apartment buildings collectively known as “The Wave”. To the passing visitor, these not-yet-quite-completed buildings are an utter delight – their eye-pleasing organic curves and glass facades complementing their waterside location perfectly. To the local artists, however, they appear to be the subject of controversy: two of the sculptures refer to these expensive apartments as a symbol of the gap between the haves and have-nots.

And the artists succeed in making their point strongly: whilst the stunning location and architecture of “The Wave” may look pretty in photographs, it undeniably does block the view of the fjord for the residents of the social housing and those enjoying the public park immediately behind; incendiary material for any contemporary artist with strong viewpoints on social equality.

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In our previous blog post, Ash wasn’t considered responsible enough to climb a few steps in an English cathedral. But in Vejle he was entrusted to take an adult-size kayak out into a fjord on his own. Denmark – we love you!!

Most of the other sculptures have similarly “serious” themes, all of which have a common thread – these are local issues with global consequences: man’s increasingly fractious relationship with nature, for example, is represented in several of the installations, and the visually striking “Heads up!” demonstrates the very real struggle of many simply to “keep their heads above water” and get on with life as best they can.

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The arduous journey of refugees to Denmark was the subject of two more particularly thought-provoking installations, one of which – “Stay Together” – was physically quite distant to the other sculptures: an intentional symbolism of integration issues? However, the art was not all serious. In particular, the utterly absurd “Island” – complete with working traffic lights – was a predictably big hit with the kids:

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“Island” – Floating art in Vejle, Denmark. And, yes, Mia was given express permission to ignore the sign and enter the “artwork”. Please do not try this yourself without authorisation.

“But… is this art?” Mia (9) asked me, through a confused smile, “It’s just a traffic island”.

“Well, where’s the traffic then?”

Silence.

It’s funny: when an otherwise-mundane part of our life – a traffic island for example – is taken away from its natural environment and placed without context elsewhere, our highly-conditioned brains struggle to take it in, struggle to accept it. Approaching such a sculpture slowly in a canoe merely heightens the experience. This was my favourite of all the art in the fjord, which probably says something about my own unserious and highly immature nature.

Despite the heavy skies overhead, the glassy water underneath stayed calm throughout our trip – perfect conditions for a truly unique cultural experience with kids… in an authentically Scandinavian way.


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PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON VEJLE’S “FLOATING ART” EXHIBITION

  • “Floating Art 2017” opened on 23rd June and will run throughout the summer. The project is likely to reappear – with new art installations – in future years.
  • Our 90-minute guided tour was in English and cost DKK225 (€30) for adults and DKK100 (€13.50) for children. There was no price difference between renting a canoe or a kayak. Enquire at museerne@vejle.dk for further details.
  • The exhibition is organised through “VejleMuseerne“, an umbrella organisation for the city’s cultural exhibitions.
  • Wondering what else to do in the Vejle region? The local tourist office have a great website and were remarkably friendly and helpful. (p.s. Legoland is only 20 minutes away!)

Daisy the bus visited Vejle, Denmark in July 2017

(c) 2017 Jonathan Orr

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Author: daisythebus

Father-of-four based in Luxembourg. I write about "off the beaten track" travel adventures with my family. Expect to read about nature, outdoor activities, the arts, authenticity, and alternative ways of discovering the world around us.

30 thoughts on “Floating Art in Vejle”

  1. Can’t help wondering what the pitch meeting for that concept was like. Let’s have an outdoor sculpture exhibition! Yeah! Let’s put it in te river so you can only get to it by canoe! ! It does appeal to me though. I’d totally want to take the tour.

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  2. Now that is a very fun and thought-provoking idea for an art gallery – I suspect it would hold my daughter’s attention longer than a standard display in a room, and it sounds like the artists have worked hard to incorporate the setting into the art as well. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

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  3. Love Denmark and what a great way to combine art with an important message. The opportunity to take a kayak too! Fab! I must ask my friend who lives in Aarhus if she has been as I am sure her kids would love this too!

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  4. This sounds incredible. These artworks look as though they convey a thought-provoking message with grace and humour. I’m drawing up my travel schedule for next year this weekend, and Denmark really does have to go on it now. Thanks for sharing with #CulturedKids

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  5. Oh I would love to get my camera out there – what a unique and unusual experience! I love the setting on the fjord: so much more fun than a museum. The traffic island is strange but I love the juxtaposition with the silent fjord – inspired. #FarawayFiles

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  6. What an interesting art experience! I do like the way you can literally canoe around it. What a fabulous way to combine art and adventure in the great outdoors. Fabulous way to get kids talking about art too. Thanks so much for sharing this on #FarawayFiles

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  7. What a great concept. I’m not a water lover (can hardly swim) but even I’d be tempted to canoe out and have a look at these. Popped over to your post on Lincoln Cathedral too, I can understand pre-schoolers not being able to climb the tower but this is madness! #farawayfiles

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    1. Ah, the water was so calm, so still – you’d have been fine! And, yes, what a crazy experience we had at Lincoln Cathedral, utterly bonkers when compared to the refreshingly liberal and common-sense attitude of the Scandinavians! Thanks for reading.

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    1. Yes, I think so. I’m not undermining the importance of the issues raised by the other artists, but after seeing 8 or 9 sculptures with obvious political and social messages attached, the absurdity of “Island” felt so refreshing. All in all, a great exhibition!

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    1. You definitely should check it out. The local tourist association and the Vejle museums organisation (link above) were remarkably helpful and efficient; I’m sure they would love to hear from you. Have fun!

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    1. To add to the ridiculousness of it all, the light periodically changed from red to green and back. I know; the guide jokingly berated me for canoeing through the red light! 😀 Thanks for reading, and for your nice comment on Instagram!

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      1. Haha the changing light is the BEST!! Thanks so much for sharing this extra bit of info with me 🙂

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    1. It’s brilliant. And kayaking is much. much easier than people believe it to be. If you’re still not confident, just grab a buddy and hop into a canoe: slower but steadier 😀 Thanks for reading!

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  8. Oh! I have to go see this! I volunteered for the public art committee back in Oregon and our task was to select the 15 sculptures that would be placed around town in our “gallery without walls.” Seeing art by kayak sounds supreme… looking up routes to Vejle now! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

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    1. It’s only a few hours from Copenhagen, Erin – definitely worth the trip 😀 As an extra tip, the “Brød” café in the city centre (Nørregade 69) has wonderful self-baked organic bread and sweet stuff. Free refills on coffee too – I could have stayed there all day if there weren’t so many other wonderful things to see and do. We were deeply impressed by Denmark – hope to return soon!

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