Danh Vo: We the People (Detail)
National Gallery of Denmark, Sølvgade 48-50, DK-1307 Copenhagen K
1 June 2012-31 December 2013
From the Press Release
The Danish-Vietnamese artist Danh Vo has put into the 2,000 m² Sculpture Street at the National Gallery of Denmark with an installation as subtle as it is monumental.
A full-scale Statue of Liberty
At first glance the pieces of copper look like huge, abstract shapes. Slowly, however, you begin to make out the contours of a finger, a foot, or a torch. If the pieces were to be correctly assembled, they would form a complete replica of a major icon of Western culture: the 45m Statue of Liberty located in the New York harbour.
Dahn Vo had a metal workshop in Shanghai make a full-scale copy of the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s famous goddess on Liberty Island. But in contrast to the 1886 original, Vo’s replica is not welded together to form a single whole; rather, its many constituent parts are exhibited separately in various groupings at different sites across the world.
An exhibition in a state of flux:
As the title suggests, Danh Vo’s installation We the People (Detail) is not intended to form a single, cohesive whole. The more than 400 ‘details’ will be scattered across a number of exhibition sites - 12 so far - in places such as Bangkok, Barcelona, Chicago, Kassel, New York, and Paris. Like an impossible and mutating puzzle, a total of approximately 110 parts - the heaviest of which weighs 300 kg - is on display in the National Gallery of Denmark’s vast Sculpture Street over the course of the one-year exhibition period. The display at the National Gallery of Denmark will change during the exhibition run as some parts are sent on to other sites while others are added.
When narratives are dismantled Just as the project itself challenges habitual notions about originality and the nature of sculpture, Danh Vo also tampers with the classic exhibition format. Reinvented by the artist, this consolidated, potent, and highly charged symbol of New York becomes a divided and travelling phenomenon that resists cohesion and conclusions.
Earlier works by Vo have also seen him focus on objects that are central to the Western world’s self-image or associated with special world events. One example would be the sculpture 08:03:51, 28.05.2009 from 2009, which the National Gallery of Denmark recently acquired and now shows in the new display of ‘Danish and International Art after 1900”. The work is quite simply an original 19th century crystal chandelier formerly located at the Hôtel Majestic in Paris, where the peace treaty between Vietnam and the USA was signed in 1973. Here, as in We the People (Detail), Danh Vo has torn a historically charged object out of and away from its familiar narratives by dragging it into a museum setting.
About Danh Vo:
The unmistakable reference to immigration embedded in the Statue of Liberty also points to a more personal layer of meaning in Danh Vo’s project. Vo was born in the south of Vietnam in 1975. At the age of four his family fled Vietnam in a boat. The objective of their journey was indeed the USA, but the refugee family was picked up by a Danish container vessel somewhere on the Pacific. This personal story, the sheer randomness that determined the family’s association with Denmark, and not least the question of how identity is shaped by overall cultural and political conditions have fascinated Danh Vo ever since.
Danh Vo now primarily lives and works in Basel and New York. He is a graduate from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and the Städelschule in Frankfurt. In recent years he has won great acclaim on the international art scene and has a wide range of prestigious exhibitions to his name, for example at the Artist Space in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Kunsthalle Basel, and the Kunsthaus Bregenz. Several museums have acquired his works, including the MoMA in New York.