While the economic value of art has been the object of spiralling public attention in recent years, art research has focused mainly on the value of art from the perspective of art history. The value of art for society is typically reduced to an individual issue pertaining to personal enlightenment or education.

Art and social communities

Forum: Art and Communality – the New Carlsberg Foundation’s research centre at the University of Copenhagen – highlights a fairly neglected field: the function and importance of art in relation to a collective audience. Thus, the centre’s research effort will be dedicated to the communities that emerge in the encounter with art:

‘Normally, we primarily think of the art experience as an individual phenomenon: anyone who encounters a work of art has their own unique experience. Fundamentally, however, in encountering art we are also part of a community, a shared experience. In this sense, art constitutes a meeting place, a forum, that gives rise to a particular kind of community,’ says Frederik Tygstrup who adds,

‘Over the next five years, the new centre is going to engage in a branch of art research that is focused on art’s particular mode of being as something that relates to a collective public/audience: a public/audience that is the precondition of art and which it addresses. What social functions have the forums of art had, in a contemporary as well as a historical context, and what implications does it have for a democratic society that art challenges our common sensory and mental reactions?’

New field of research

For the New Carlsberg Foundation the funding for the new research centre marks the largest single donation to art research in the foundation’s history:

‘We have chosen to make a large donation to this ambitious basic research project, which in every regard matches our overall goal of enhancing interest in and insight into the role of art,’ says Morten Kyndrup, member of the board of the New Carlsberg Foundation and a professor at Aarhus University. He adds,

‘Kunsten som Forum is a profoundly interesting and significant project because the research here will be focused on the relevance and significance of art, also outside its traditional domains. The centre has a great potential to improve our understanding of the relationship between research, art and society. It is going to take both a broad and an in-depth approach to address issues that concern a great many people.’

Cross-disciplinary research centre

Kunsten som Forum will be affiliated with the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen and is going to welcome researchers from Denmark and abroad on every level, from doctoral students to senior researchers, and from multiple disciplines, including art history, anthropology, sociology, economics and philosophy. The research activities at the centre are going to take place in close cooperation with museums, theatres, art schools and academies, libraries and organizations with an interest in the role of art in society.