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O My America: I Could Live Here

July 8, 2015

by Lawrence Bush

[caption id=“attachment_37994” align=“alignleft” width=“300”]Peter Doig, on exhibit at the Louisiana Modern Art museum in Denmark Peter Doig, on exhibit at the Louisiana Modern Art museum in Denmark[/caption]

IT’S NOT ALWAYS summer here, and there’s not always an international jazz festival going on, but I could definitely see living in Denmark.

We’re at the Louisiana modern art museum, about half an hour outside Copenhagen along the North Sea (I think). The collection is rich with American and German artists: Rothko, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Calder, Henry Moore, Cindy Sherman, Ad Reinhardt, Joseph Beuys, and others. There’s also a magnificent set of Giacometti figures (Switzerland), a room dedicated to Demark’s own Asger Jorn (1914-1973), whose layered, textured, abstract paintings remind me of Willem de Kooning’s work, and many other artists in rooms beyond my ability to take in today. And there’s a spread of magnificent, hilarious Mesoamerican sculpture and pottery, 1,000-2,500 years old, from Mexico and Central and South America — as well as a mixed-media show about African art, culture and politics that is frankly, unabashedly anti-colonialist and otherwise progressive in outlook.

Best of all, the museum is split into several small buildings, Venice Biennale-style, and surrounded by hilly lawns down which children of many ages are rolling and toddling, and pathways to the sea. It’s the most child-friendly art museum I’ve ever seen, and it’s filled with the most child-friendly adults, too. There have been a couple of wailing babies during our visit here, but not a single impatient, let alone pissed-off, parent.

THIS IS ONE HAPPY people, six million strong. Happy and sophisticated. I’ve noted, especially, that the men make a lot of eye contact with me and offer smiles and other affirmations; they are a confident, community-minded lot. Susan got off the metro late at night with at least a dozen burly Danish men the other night, on a deserted street, Susan the only female in sight, and it never occurred to her to be nervous.

The trains run efficiently and have no advertising. There are far more bicycles than cars on the streets of Copenhagen.

Yes, I’ve seen poor people, especially in the parks, where they collect deposit bottles — and I’ve seen young Danish men deliberately leaving their bottles tipped against the garbage cans to make it easy for the collectors to get them without having to root around in the garbage.

To quote the much-praised jazz giant, Louis Armstrong — a revered figure among the sizable jazz crowd here in Copenhagen — “I think to myself: What a wonderful world.”

Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents and is on vacation.