Mythologies in Art, From the Greeks to Present Day, at ARoS

June 17, 2020

Mythology has been inspiring the artists throughout the centuries, and regardless of differentiations conditioned by the geographical context, it has always paid tribute to an array of stories celebrating hope, faith and numerous others aspects of human behavior presented through fantasy.

As the times changed the myths have changed as well, and to relight the ways they have been and still are represented, The ARoS museum is hosting a grand exhibition titled Mythologies – The Beginning and End of Civilizations that revisits this particular phenomenon from Antiquity to the present-day. 

Nicolas Regnier – David with the head of Goliath, 17th century. Collection of the National Museum in Belgrade

All About The Myths

The exhibition spans through two gallery spaces and includes around one hundred-and-fifty works (paintings, sculptures, photographs, video works, and installation pieces, and posters) loaned from major international art collections intending to unravel the mythical narratives that framed the Western cultural space and often caused the communities to engage in war and destruction.

The ARoS museum director, Erlend G. Høyersten, stated the following:

The exhibition addresses myths and narratives in times of unrest. In the case of Christianity, for example, it’s about the fragmentation between Catholicism and Protestantism and about how new narratives emerge out of this, giving rise to new philosophies of life and ways to understand society. It’s in times of upheaval that we discover precisely the values that are on stake and it’s at this point that many new values emerge.

Left: Lucas Cranach the Elder – Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1530. Oil on wood. Kulturstiftung Dessau-Wörlitz / Right: Shana Moulton – The Pink Tower, 2019. Exhibition view Zabludowicz Collection, London. Courtesy the artist and Zabludowicz Collection. Commissioned by Zabludowicz Collection. Photo: Tim Bowditch

The Coverage of Themes

Mythologies unroll starting from the Greek myths, and the Christian narratives regarding Genesis and Doomsday, visually explored throughout the Reformation, Counter-Reformation and Neo-classicism when the myth became an idiom used for political purposes.

The exhibition also tackles Nordic mythology, especially the myths about the afterlife bringing us closer to the way totalitarian regimes, mostly Nazism, embraced mythology as a constitutive element of their ideology. It ends with what we live today with the focus on the welfare state, and a widespread narrative about Nordic societies.

The visitors have a unique chance to admire the classical paintings by masters such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Peter Paul Rubens, Jan Brueghel the Younger, and others alongside installation art by Helene Nymann, as well as other examples of contemporary art by the likes of Anselm Kiefer, Kader Attia, Anri Sala, Shana Moulton, and a few others. 

Wilhelm Marstrand – Christian IV aboard the “Trinity” during the Battle of Kiel Bay 1. July 1644, c. 1863. Oil on canvas, 130 x 178 cm. New Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

Mythologies at ARoS

It seems that Mythologies – The Beginning and End of Civilizations tends to revisit both the past and the present to empower people to articulate the impact myths had on the everlasting social and political changes.

The part covering contemporary mythologies of the exhibition will be on display at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum‎ in Aarhus, Denmark at level 1 until 6 September 2020, while the part covering mythologies in retrospect at level 5 will be on view until 18 October, 2020.

Featured images: Anri Sala - Take Over, 2017. Back-to-back HD video projections, colour, 8-channel sound, glass elements. Duration 7:56 min. 258 x 873 x 873 cm. Exhibition view: Anri Sala, Take Over, Esther Schipper, Berlin, 2017; Kader Attia - La Tour Robespierre, 2018. Video installation. Exhibition view Les racines poussent aussi dans le béton, MacVal,Vitry-sur Seine, 2018. Photo: Aurélien Mol. All images courtesy ARoS.