Kunsthal Charlottenborg

Copenhagen, Denmark | C.1669

Photo Credit: Scott Ball

At first sight, Kunsthal Charlottenborg appears to be a Danish building born from the riches and royalty of another era, but a peek inside reveals exhibition halls that now house some of Copenhagen’s most cutting-edge contemporary art. Still, if this Baroque façade could talk, its would have plenty to share about its 350-year history, and the extravagant Royal families that once inhabited the building.

The initial plot of land was a gift given in 1669 by the newly anointed King Christian V of Denmark to his half-brother and governor-general of Norway, Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve. Enamored with French architecture, Christian V set out to build a veritable “Danish Versailles,” in order to dignify the unwieldy muddied grounds.

By 1670, Christian V had cobbled over the site and dubbed it Kongens Nytorv (“The King’s New Square”), where Gyldenløve’s mansion and other establishments flaunted their high rankings. His primary goal was to relocate Copenhagen’s city center to this refurbished, strategic location. To help achieve this, he made certain that the square was very literally planted at the city center; equidistant to all points along its ramparts.

Though Gyldenløve spent eleven years building his new mansion, he resided primarily in Larvik, Norway, a city he himself founded. By 1700, he grew bored of the oversized royal playscape and sold it for 50,000 Danish crowns to Christian V’s better half, dowager Queen Charlotte Amalie.

Queen Charlotte used it for far more selfless purposes: at the turn of the 18th century she founded a small school of fine arts in the mansion-turned-palace, which later became the official base of The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, in 1754. The hope was to cultivate a home-grown, distinctly-Danish art scene from within the country, rather than be dependent on imported artwork.

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