Last year the Danish couple behind Faurschou Foundation, Jens and Masha Faurschou, opened their third museum in a former shoe factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with a thought-provoking exhibition featuring 17 artists exploring the themes of war, politics, hope and longing.
Jens, who ran a commercial art gallery in Copenhagen for 25 years before setting up the philanthropic Faurschou enterprise in 2011, was acutely aware of the importance of having a presence in the city. He credits the 1980s New York art scene with opening his horizons to what art could be. Having already established exhibition spaces in Copenhagen and Beijing, it was only a matter of time before New York became the next port of call.
‘We specialise in creating dialogues between the East and the West,’ says the collector. ‘We work with artists who have something to say and want to challenge us.’
This proactive desire to break down the barriers between cultures is reflected in the foundation’s distinctly diverse collection of art, ranging from work by the Palestinian artist Hazem Harb to the Mexican-born sculptor Damián Ortega. Central to the foundation’s philosophy, however, is its longstanding relationship with China, and its desire to engage Western audiences with ideas from the region.
To this end, the institution’s inaugural show in Beijing in 2008 was Robert Rauschenberg, the first Western artist to exhibit at the National Art Museum in China in 1985. Faurschou Foundation has subsequently held exhibitions of the Chinese artists Liu Xiaodong, Cai Guo Qiang, Liu Wei and Ai Weiwei in Copenhagen.
The World Is a Sphere: Art from the Faurschou Foundation, a single-owner sale at Christie’s running until 16 July, offers works donated by artists with whom the Faurschous have worked closely, as well as pieces from the foundation’s blue-chip collection. The money raised from the sale will support the organisation’s artistic program and champion artists struggling in the current crisis.
Notable highlights include Traveling Piece by Rauschenberg and a sculpture by the important African American artist Simone Leigh, best known today for investigating the black female experience. Her prepossessing Untitled IV (Anatomy of Architecture series) reimagines the human body using architectural references from ancient Rome, West Africa and the American South.
There are also paintings by the late Per Kirkeby, who brought a rich dynamism to his abstractions, and a monumental canvas by the German artist Georg Baselitz, who similarly rejoices in such physical gestural expressions.
A vertiginous painting of a denuded wasteland, from the 2011 series ‘Alkahest’ by Anslem Kiefer, is also offered in the auction. The acclaimed German artist has consistently confronted Europe’s tortured history, and his vision of the future is no less cataclysmic.
Among the standout works by Chinese artists coming to auction are Pink Phoenix by Liu Xiaodong, above, and a Coca-Cola vase by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, below, with whom the couple have worked for many years.
When Ai controversially cancelled his exhibition at Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen in 2016 in protest at the Danish government’s decision to make it legal to confiscate valuables from asylum seekers, Jens issued a statement in support of Ai’s decision. It also deplored his government’s failure to help solve the humanitarian crisis.
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It is why the philanthropists believe that both art and artists have a role to play in the world today. As Jens explains, ‘We are determined to continue empowering artists’ voices through our exhibitions in China, America and Europe. In times like now, when walls are being built up around the world, art is taking borders down.’
The World Is a Sphere: Art from the Faurschou Foundation is online until 16 July