CHART 2023: In Conversation With The Leading Nordic Art Event’s Director – Forbes

CHART is a highlight on the Nordic arts calendar. Founded a decade ago by five leading Copenhagen galleries, the annual three-day event in August offers a window into the region’s contemporary art and design scene.

CHART 2023 saw 37 established and younger galleries exhibit at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, where the courtyard of this historic building staged an architectural competition by five young practices to coincide with Copenhagen’s selection as UNESCO’s World Capital of Architecture for 2023. New to the event this year was a sculptural show in the city’s charming Tivoli Gardens amusement park featuring 16 site-specific works. There was also an exhibition dedicated to collecting art and a lively program of talks, performances, films and music.

With CHART 2023 closing last week, I caught up with its new director, Julie Quottrup Silbermann, to learn more about the event and how it sits within the Nordic art and design landscape.

What have been the highlights of CHART 2023 for you?

Since this year has been my first year as the director, there have been countless highlights. However, if I had to choose one, I would pick this year’s CHART in Tivoli exhibition, which featured new works by a diverse lineup of 16 international emerging and established artists. With our new partnership with Tivoli, we will return each summer for the next three years to present a brand-new exhibition of site-specific artworks in this iconic 180-year-old amusement park.

What is your intention with the Tivoli program?

CHART in Tivoli continues our mission of being an agent of positive change, challenging the traditional art fair format and bringing contemporary art to new audiences. In the process, we aimed to present a broad range of media — the show presents traditional sculpture, site-specific installation, neon works, and surprising pieces in unexpected places. It feels like a treasure hunt when walking around in the magical garden.

Were you surprised by any of this year’s commissions for Tivoli?

Instead of being surprised, I was thrilled to see how all artists have carefully selected or created their work for Tivoli, making the experience a journey through the garden’s magical spaces. It felt like a holistic presentation of both well-established artists like Jonathan Meese, Sylvie Fleury and FOS to more emerging artists like Georg Nordmark, Oliver Sundqvist and Audur Lóa.

It’s nice to hear you are partnering with UNESCO to include CHART Architectural in their program. Why the competition, and what was the overall theme?

Besides art, architecture has also been one of our key focuses for the past nine editions of CHART. Continuing our interest in encouraging innovation amongst new practitioners, we announced an architecture competition in the early spring for newly graduated or emerging architectural firms.

The architects were asked to submit innovative constructions to the theme “New European Bauhaus” and its three principles of aesthetics, sustainability and inclusion. All records were broken, with more than 60 submissions.

That is a lot of submissions. What was the process for selection?

The jury selected five innovative architectural constructions built inside Charlottenborg’s courtyard’s historical framework. They selected the installation “Off-The-Shelf” (by young architecture firm Plan Noll) for our first prize award, as it lived up to all the principles and, furthermore, integrated universal design.

New to 2023 is “Start Collecting with CHART,” which you mention is about curating a selling exhibition. Where did the idea come from?

It’s about curating a selling exhibition featuring works by some of the region’s most well-established artists and new talents, as well as providing greater transparency at every stage of the purchasing process. In doing so, we hope to encourage first-time buyers to start their collecting journey with stand-out works at a more affordable price point. After working for many years at galleries and as an art advisor, I could really feel a growing interest in how you start an art collection.

What are the challenges and opportunities for first-time collectors?

The key challenge is the lack of transparency about how much artworks cost, and what best practices are to follow when purchasing art. With this initiative, we wanted to clarify both of these points so that first-time collectors can focus on finding works that they love. By visiting an art fair, you will be presented with many different media and expressions and simultaneously have the opportunity to speak to all the gallerists and let them introduce you to their artists. In that sense, one of the key opportunities for first-time collectors is to engage with artworks that speak to their preferences and values.

CHART is focused on the Nordic art community. What can you tell me about art here, and how (or if) it differs from art communities elsewhere in Europe?

CHART is built on the aspiration to create a strong arts community throughout the Nordic region and to offer a single-entry point to this community for international audiences. We want to promote an idea of the Nordic art scene as a space with a strong emphasis on high-quality curated presentations and a collegial rather than competitive atmosphere – with galleries sharing resources, information and collectors with one another.

How do you ensure CHART retains its unique Nordic character among the many international art fairs?

We continue to invite only galleries from the Nordic countries. Our layout differs from the typical fair architecture by not having these long aisles and traditional booths. We let the architecture of Kunsthal Charlottenborg define our layout, and it gives CHART the feeling of being one large, curated contemporary art exhibition.

Reducing carbon footprint is one of the critical challenges within the art world. What measures have you taken this year to be more sustainable with CHART 2023?

Sustainability is an important issue for all of us, and the art world is no exception. We’re strongly committed to reducing our environmental impact as well as to using our voice to encourage wider change across the art world.

A key focus of CHART 2023 has been to promote conscious collecting, both in our talks program and in other new initiatives for CHART 2023. Encouraging greater consideration of the positive and negative impacts of purchasing decisions is a key part of that. One of our measures was also to partner with transport provider HIZKIA, organizing shared transports to collect and deliver artworks from the Nordics in the most sustainable way.

What are the challenges with making art events more inclusive and inviting wider audiences to participate? And do you see the live events helping expand its reach beyond typical art enthusiasts?

We want to broaden the audience for art and art experiences and to help reduce the framing of contemporary art as something elitist. CHART in Tivoli is a good example of one of our strategies to encourage meetings between art and new audiences in unexpected settings. Our performance program in the public square at Kongens Nytorv has been another way of bringing art out into the public sphere. There are a lot of opportunities to broaden the conversation around contemporary art and what art can do.

These are topical debates: what art can do, the responsibility of art to be active, for the artist to give a sense of agency. What are your thoughts on this?

Many artists provide our communities with joy, interaction, and inspiration, but they also give thoughtful critique to our society and highly discussed themes in the art world — pushing us to engage thoughtfully and make steps toward social progress.

CHART 2023 (August 24 – 27) was exhibited at Charlottenborg, Copenhagen.

See my roundup of the summer art season in London and beyond here.

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