Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Turns 125 - drawing of the venue by Dahlerup in 1903

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Turns 125

Photo: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

On Sunday 1 May, The Glyptotek art museum in Copenhagen turns 125 and honours the spirit of its founder, Carl Jacobsen of New Carlsberg Brewery, with celebratory speeches and music – just as at the Grand Opening on 1 May 1897.

On Sunday 1 May, The Glyptotek in Copenhagen will be paying tribute to the centrally located art museum, which perpetuates the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen’s vision of creating a celebratory setting for art and a temple of beauty for everyone. 

For Carl Jacobsen was not only the founder of the world-famous New Carlsberg Brewery. He was also a passionate art collector, patron, and developer with strong ideas about people’s education and cultural development.

“…Living art belongs to living people! But it should not be the preserve of the wealthy alone. It should also give pleasure to the ordinary man and woman in the street so that they too can sense the power of beauty,” said Carl Jacobsen in his opening speech, when, nine years after the opening of the Glyptotek, he finally inaugurated the Winter Garden and the large extension to house the collections of ancient art.

“The Glyptotek is the legacy of a forward-looking, modern patron with great visions for art and the important role it plays in general education and cultural life. It was Carl Jacobsen’s wish to release our senses and artistic vision by making his sumptuous collections available to the public. He believed that art should be accessible to everyone. The brewer was ahead of his time in his belief that the senses were the path to knowledge and in his creation of a beautiful, recreational setting for art,” said Gertrud Hvidberg-Hansen, Director of the Glyptotek.

How it all began

Carl Jacobsen first bought paintings. Then he bought sculptures. Thereafter he built a small museum with a winter garden, so “the statues could be shown to their full advantage,” as Jacobsen put it in his speech at the opening of the Glyptotek. It was the start of the collection that began life on Valby Bakke, but that needed a new – and bigger – setting closer to the city.

Carl and his wife Ottilia Jacobsen donated their private art collection to the public with a deed of gift to the City of Copenhagen including art and a museum building. In return, the city provided the plot of land on which the Glyptotek stands to this day. Carl Jacobsen commissioned Vilhelm Dahlerup, one of the greatest architects of the time, to design the new building, and in 1897 the museum opened.

“I did not wish to build just any old museum. I wanted to construct a temple of beauty, in which art could speak to everyone,” said Jacobsen of his vision for the museum in his opening speech in 1897. His ambitions were lofty and on an international scale. Not only did the museum open with the brewer’s private collection and the impressive museum building. Adjacent to the museum, Carl Jacobsen also built a temporary building to house one of Copenhagen’s very first international exhibitions, featuring art from all over the world as a reflection of his international vision.

A colourful celebration

At our celebration on 1 May, visitors will get a feeling of the atmosphere that reigned on the opening day 125 years ago, with a programme featuring choral music and commemorative speeches. In the spirit of Carl Jacobsen, lunch will be served at refectory tables in the museum’s Central Hall, and there will be guided tours looking at art, architecture, and the brewer himself, art breaks, and music. Especially for the occasion, inspired by the museum’s popular oasis, the Carlsberg Laboratory is brewing a special surprise for visitors.

“We have devised an anniversary programme that celebrates both the history of the museum and its unique historicist architecture. The brewer passionately believed that art should not be the preserve of the upper echelons of society, but should exist for the pleasure of ordinary men and women. That is why we want to celebrate the day in a festive way,” said Gertrud Hvidberg-Hansen.

For the jubilee celebration, on the basis of archaeological colour studies, the wall colours of Vilhelm Dahlerup’s first building have been restored, so they will look exactly as they did at the inauguration in 1897. In addition, the capitals of the columns will be gleaming with freshly applied gold leaf. In the rooms, visitors will see new displays of the museum’s collections of French paintings and French and Danish sculptures from the 19th century, and enjoy a reunion with certain masterpieces that have not been exhibited for a number of years.

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Programme on 1 May 2022:


11.00 am: A performance of Carl Jacobsen’s original opening speech from 1897 in the Winter Garden.
11.15 am: As at the inauguration of the Glyptotek, the Winter Garden will resound with choral music in a performance by Musica Ficta.
11.30 am: The museum’s director, Gertrud Hvidberg-Hansen will welcome guests.
12.00 noon: Lunch at a refectory table in the Central Hall. (Tickets must be purchased in advance)
2.00-4.30 pm: Free anniversary beer. The Carlsberg Laboratory will present the Glyptotek’s recently-brewed Oasis Beer.
3.00 pm: In the Winter Garden, the composer/singer Di Garbi will perform a spring piece, specially composed for the Glyptotek.

Guided tours every half hour

10.30-11.00 am: The Brewer’s Building. Discover the façade of the Glyptotek.
11.30 am-12.00 noon: Look Up! Discover the architecture of the Glyptotek.
12.30-1.00 pm: The Brewer’s Building. Discover the façade of the Glyptotek.
1.30-2.00 pm: Carl’s Great Love.

Read more about the 125th anniversary celebrations here