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Per Kirkeby

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Per Kirkeby
Born(1938-09-01)1 September 1938
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died9 May 2018(2018-05-09) (aged 79)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Alma materUniversity of Copenhagen
Occupation(s)Poet, writer, sculptor
Years active1955–2018
AwardsPrince Eugen Medal (1990)
Thorvaldsen Medal (1987)
Order of the Danneborg (1997)

Per Kirkeby (1 September 1938 – 9 May 2018) was a Danish painter, poet, film maker and sculptor.[1][2] His works have been exhibited worldwide and are represented in many important public collections, including the Tate, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou.

Kirkeby became a member of the Danish Academy in 1982. In 1990 he received the Art Prize of NORD/LB, which is endowed for outstanding efforts in the subject of contemporary art. In 1996 he received the Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award and the Henrik Steffens Award. In 1997 he became a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog and in 2003 he received the Herbert Boeckl Prize for his lifetime of work.[citation needed]


Brick sculpture by Kirkeby in front of German National Library in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

In 1957, Kirkeby began studying natural history at the University of Copenhagen. As a research assistant, he went on several trips to Greenland, in 1958, 1959, and 1960. In 1962, he began studying at the Experimental Art School in Copenhagen (Danish: Den Eksperimenterende Kunstskole). During his time there, worked with a variety of mediums, including: painting, graphic arts, 8 millimeter films and performance pieces.[3]

By the time Kirkeby completed a master's degree in arctic geology at the University of Copenhagen in 1964, he was already part of the important experimental art school "eks-skolen." His interest in geology and other aspects of the natural world was fundamental to and characteristic of his art. Kirkeby went on to work as a painter, sculptor, writer, and printmaker.[citation needed] His works were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1976, 1980, 1993, 1997, and 2005. In addition, he worked with theatre productions, designing the set for the New York City Ballet's 1999 production of Swan Lake, and the set and costumes for their 2007 production of Romeo and Juliet.[4]

In 1977, he published Fliegende Blätter. He published a book of essays on the works of Delacroix, Manet, Picasso in 1988. Kirkeby taught as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe beginning in 1978, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (1978–1989) and at Städelschule in Frankfurt (1989–2000).

In 1996, he collaboratively works as a painter for three films with filmmaker Lars von Trier, creating the chapter headings for Breaking the Waves and Antichrist, as well as the visuals for the ouverture to Dancer in the Dark.

Personal life[edit]

Per Kirkeby was born 1 September 1938 in Copenhagen to Alfred Kirkeby Christensen and Lucy Helga Alice Nisbeth Bertelsen. His father Alfred was an engineer and he spent his childhood between Bispebjerg and Husum.[3] In his adult life, Kirkeby lived and worked between Hellerup, Læsø, Frankfurt am Main and Italy. In 1979, he married film producer Vibeke Windeløv. The next year he purchased a house on the island Laeso. Vibeke and Per separated in 2002. In 2005, he Married Mari Anne Duus Jørgensen in Grundtvig's Church.[3] Kirkeby had four children: two daughters and two sons.[citation needed]

In 2013, Kirkeby sustained a serious brain injury in a domestic fall accident.[5] He announced in 2015 that he had given up all further attempts to resume painting after the accident, but continued to create small etchings.[6][5] He died on 9 May 2018 at his home in Hellerup and is buried at Bispebjerg Cemetery.[1][3][7]

List of exhibitions[edit]

Per Kirkeby's untitled fresco in the Black Diamond in Copenhagen


  1. ^ a b Hornung, Peter Michael (9 May 2018). "Kongen af dansk malerkunst er død". Politiken (in Danish). Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Per Kirkeby". Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Om Per Kirkeby". Museum Jorn (in Danish). Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  4. ^ "Romeo + Juliet". New York City Ballet. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  5. ^ a b Stockmann, Camilla (31 January 2015). "Kirkeby: "Jeg har opgivet at være maler, jeg har lukket den butik"" [Kirkeby: "I have given up being a painter"]. Politiken (in Danish). Photo by Joachim Adrian. Copenhagen. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  6. ^ "Per Kirkeby opgiver maleriet" [Per Kirkeby abandons painting]. Kristeligt Dagblad (in Danish). 31 January 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Per Kirkeby". Gravsted (in Danish). Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  8. ^ "Kirkeby" (PDF). Beaux-Arts de Paris.[dead link]
  9. ^ "The collection: Per Kirkeby Samlingen". ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (in Danish). Archived from the original on 2018-01-17. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  10. ^ "Per Kirkeby". Tate Modern. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  11. ^ "Per Kirkeby". National Gallery of Denmark (in Danish). Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  12. ^ "Kunsthalle in Emden". Kunsthalle in Emden (in German). Archived from the original on 17 October 2006.
  13. ^ Barañano, Kosme. "Homage to Chillida". Guggenheim Bilbao. Archived from the original on 23 October 2006.
  14. ^ Blüher, Joachim. "Per Kirkeby – Retrospektive der Zeichnungen". Villa Massimo (in German). Archived from the original on 21 August 2006.
  15. ^ "Per Kirkeby: Monotypien 2000". Niels Borch Jensen (in German). Archived from the original on 10 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Per Kirkeby". Magasin III Museum for Contemporary Art. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  17. ^ "Per Kirkeby. Pinturas, Esculturas, Grabados y Escritos". Institut Valencià d'Art Modern. Retrieved 6 December 2023.
  18. ^ "An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 11 January 2023.

Further reading[edit]

  • Corà, Bruno (2012). "Kaere Aby Warburg". Mozart: Pensiero Esperienze Forme del Contemporaneo. 1. Ali&No: 28–39. ISBN 978-88-6254-092-6.
  • Kirkeby, Per (1977). Fliegende Blätter (in German). Essen: Museum Folkwang. OL 20975858M.
  • Kirkeby, Per; Hunov, John (1979). Per Kirkeby: Øuvrekatalog 1958–1977 over raderinger, linoleumssnit, træsnit (in Danish). Copenhagen: Den Danske Radeerforening. ISBN 978-87-418-2690-5.
  • Wöhlk, Nina; et al. (2016). Kirkeby på Læsø: om Læsø i Per Kirkebys kunst (in Danish). Læsø Kunsthal. ISBN 978-87-91209-05-5.
  • ARKEN Museum for samtidskunst (red.): Bricks : Per Kirkeby. 2023. ISBN 9788778751515
  • Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (red.): Per Kirkeby - bronze. 2020. ISBN 9788793659292
  • Ane Hejlskov Larsen: Per Kirkeby : paintings 1978–1989. 2016 ISBN 9783863358570

External links[edit]