Kay Bojesen in the Nøstetangen room

A fixed expression says that something is "like an elephant in a glass magazine". The expression is self-explanatory.

The expression is self-explanatory. Elephants and crystal vases are simply sizes that do not go well together. This contradiction is a humorous and popular way of expressing a fundamental contradiction that characterizes much of society. It is the relationship between nature and culture that collides shrillly and irreparably when the large animal leaves the huge savannas and storms into the narrow passages of the shop premises. This contradiction is especially evident when we look at Kay Bojesen's (1886-1958) works. Bojesen, the creator of the elephant figure, the hippopotamus, the zebra - and the monkey. Bojesen, the artist who loved to visit the zoo and who at the same time placed the greatest demands on craftsmanship and sophisticated use of materials. Bojesen who collaborated with the director of Holmegaard glassworks to establish a display and slaughterhouse for a new Danish design, Den Permanente in Copenhagen (1931-81). Bojesen who knew that glass is light and fragile and the elephant solid and heavy.

Kay Bojesen thus showed the difference between the elephant and the glass magazine. He was also a bridge builder, an artist who managed to reconcile contradictions. He built a bridge between creative work and sustainable economics, between the interest in the beautiful and the need for the practical, between the child's wild and untamed vitality and the maturation of a responsible citizen. Kay Bojesen was a man of his time, a modern designer who created art to inspire people and with his things make everyday life more exciting and rich for all of us.

Perhaps Kay Bojesen's most famous work is the monkey, a sweet and mischievous rascal, inspired by the jungle chimpanzee, designed and made of light and dark wood. The long arms and the crooked legs, with grippy hands and feet, are the special thing about the chimpanzee's body that makes it so elegantly able to hang from a branch, sling on, run quickly over a branch and jump to the next tree. The chimpanzee has a restlessness that even when sitting still is present as a tension. Kay Bojesen has studied these things, and it is precisely the mischievous face, the small belly ball and the long limbs with the hook hands that he has captured in his elegant, simplified design language. The wooden toy monkey has everything we see and lets us enjoy when we see the monkey in the zoo or in the jungle. The monkey's body and mannerisms are as created for the jungle - and the playroom.

We adults like monkeys because they are reminiscent of children; children like monkeys because they are reminiscent of themselves. If we look at Kay Bojesen's ape in the light of the progressive, child - centered pedagogy that characterizes modern Denmark, Norway, the rest of Europe and the USA, we see a picture of the fresh, vibrant nature the new pedagogy should be shaped into adults and responsible, social and jovial fellow human beings. But the chimpanzee is no one, even the most radical child psychologist or behaviorist, who wants to be shaped into something other than just being mischievous, active, wild - all the time. Well, chimpanzees can learn to paint "lyrically abstract expressionist" pictures (like Desmond Morris' famous monkey friend "Congo"), but they can not make Kay Bojesen's monkey figures or open a shop in Bredgade 47. We like monkeys because they remind us of a free and uninhibited life situation.

What happens when, instead of letting an elephant into a glass magazine, you let a group of monkeys into a museum room filled with 18th-century, super-skirt and irreplaceable glass art? What happens is exactly the wonderfully fabulous thing that happens when the jungle moves into the Nøstetangen room. Is there a greater contrast, a more impossible combination, a more catastrophic juxtaposition than this collision? One of the great properties of art is that it can show the potential of contradictions, that it can arouse strong emotions and set up solid contrasts and still reconcile them in a synthesis.

By seeing the lush and playful monkeys meandering and hanging from the vines that are mounted from the ceiling in the Nøstetangen room in Drammens Museum, we see something that had not been very smart in reality. It is nature that meets the culture, but it is kept here in waiting tension. The monkeys have no desire to destroy art glass. They probably have no sense of it either. They would probably grab a trophy to drink from it if given the opportunity, but they would throw it away so it shatters as soon as they have emptied the contents.

This is how this constellation reminds us of the difference between animals and humans' handling of objects. About the difference between animals and humans interest in artistic form. About human respect for form and culture, and the animals' happy ignorance of and ruthless freedom from worrying about things and their economic and artistic value. We understand why the objects in the Nøstetangen room are secured in glass showcases.

At the same time, the exhibition shows the distance in historical time. For Kay Bojesen's monkeys, there is as much handicraft and art industry as glass, silver, earthenware and tin in the museum room. But the 20th century child's play with a solid wooden toy and the bourgeoisie's use of trophies for the round bowl are vastly different. In the 18th century form of engraving with engraved crystal trophies and driven silver was reserved for the educated adults, where movements and interaction were subdued, rehearsed and formal. Something else is with the freely raised child in the «child's century», the child who is cultivated as the natural emergence of zest for life and limitless future possibilities. In the 18th century bourgeoisie there was hardly room for the child, and even smaller chimpanzees, if they were not well behaved, dressed and kept in chains.

Kay Bojesen enjoyed creating tableaux and environments for her objects when they were to be exhibited. Had he had the opportunity to exhibit in Drammens Museum while he was still alive, it is quite possible that he would have moved the monkeys into the Nøstetangen room. In any case, we feel that this is a form of presentation that is completely in the spirit of Kay Bojesen. At least he has inspired it. And it is especially nice that the jungle also has company with the silver, Kay Bojesen's beloved silver.

In the Lyche pavilion, in parallel with this exhibition, there is a broad presentation of Kay Bojesen's work.

Åsmund Thorkildsen

museum director

Monday to Friday 11.00 - 15.00

Wednesday 11.00 – 18.00

Saturday 11.00 – 16.00 (free admission)

Sunday 11.00 – 16.00