Per Kirkeby, Danish artist, 1938–2018

Per Kirkeby, Brett - Felsen, 2000, oil on canvas, 220 x 200  cm. Courtesy Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk


The Danish artist Per Kirkeby has died, aged 79. Kirkeby achieved international recognition as one of the most influential European artists of the post-war period. An omnipresent figure in his native Denmark, Kirkeby was widely respected as a painter, sculptor, architect, filmmaker and author. Kirkeby studied geology in 1957 at the University of Copenhagen and on graduating partook in expeditions to Narssak, Greenland, Central America and the Arctic. This background informs his work. While his paintings skirt abstract expressionism, and his artistic career flourished alongside the likes of Georg Baselitz and Sigmar Polke, he returned to themes of environmentalism and nature throughout his 55 year career. During the 1960s he participated in Fluxus events with Nam June Paik, Joseph Beuys, and Jörg Immendorff in Copenhagen and New York. These led to an interest in interior and exterior space, and ultimately to his large structural outdoor brick sculptures, inspired in part by Mayan architecture.

Charles Darwent wrote on Kirkeby's work in the summer 2009 issue of ArtReview, ahead of his retrospective at Tate Modern.

10 May 2018