Kristian von Hornsleth

”Art is art, when it isn’t art”

Danish painter born in 1963. Student from Herlufsholm School. Geology studies at the University of Copenhagen. Graduation from the Art Academy’s School of Architecture 199???.

Hornsleth’s art is signified by the University of Aarhus as so-called Artivism, a mixture of art and activism. He, himself describes it as ‘political concept art’, based on a wide range of media, including expressive painting, pop art, sculptures, media works, architecture, photography, film and books. A pervasive theme in Hornsleth’s work is a kind of critical dialogue between the artist and society and, not least, a study of paradoxes, taboos and hypocrisy in political contemporary times.

Hornsleth became known to the general public when he launched his Hornsleth Uganda Village Project in 2006. The project involved 100 Ugandan villagers taking the artist’s last name in exchange for agricultural animals. According to Hornsleth, the project is described as a landscape image of the modern world. In a tragic way, the project parodies the West’s complicated relationship with the Third World to great indignation in the media.

In 2008, Hornsleth made himself noticed with the Hornsleth Arms Investment Corporation project, which consists of a series of hundreds of paintings, which are simultaneously one hundred legally genuine shares in a Danish registered arms investment company of the same name. The project seeks to mirror the hypocrisy of man’s relationship with arms, power and peace, and the return from the company’s investments must be invested in either prosthetic factories or humanitarian projects.

In 2013, Hornsleth completed a project called the Deep Storage Project, which among others explores human relationships with the idea of eternal life. The documentary Hornsleth in Deep Water, which had its TV premiere at DR2 in 2014, follows the artist over four years from the start of the project to the final work of art: two similarly crafted 12-meter star-shaped steel sculptures, one submerged 11,000 meters in the Marian tomb in the Pacific Ocean with DNA samples from 4000 people, and the other set up in Vejle as a testimony to the project.

Hornsleth’s work thus consists of different approaches. Paintings and sculptures. Major multi-year concept projects. Media and teaching. Diligent lecturer at home and abroad. Frequent guest in art and debate programs in radio and on TV. Public and private decorations. Ordering and consulting in relation to creative branding process. Corporate events with coaching and team building.

In 2019, Randers Art Museum held Hornsleth’s exhibition Super Crash, a retrospective exhibition focusing on the latest mega project Buy A Homeless, where Hornsleth collaborates with 100 homeless people in London, where he lived for a number of years. Hornsleth tries to ‘privatize’ the homeless and sell them as living works of art, as a parody of the pervasive privatization and deregulation of social economies, which has unfortunately led to huge class differences and hundreds of thousands of homeless people in London.

Text from the catalog from the Hornsleth exhibition ‘Supercrash’

Randers Art Museum 2019
By Lise Jeppesen, Museum Director

There is no Danish artist, I personally find more provocative than Kristian von Hornsleth. Therfore I was initially skeptical when Hornsleth contacted me in January 2016 to start a dialogue about an exhibition. I associated his name with the controversial Uganda project of 2006 and with a lot of pop-inspired paintings with bare silicone breasts and rabid statements about violence, sexual abuse, power and politics. From my point of view as a professional art lover, woman, well-educated and well-meaning cultural radical, his project appeared as something close to a personal attack. But his inquiry was not all forgotten anyway.

Over the summer of 2018, Hornsleth launched his Homeless project, which became THE topic in the British media. It was criticized by the aid organizations, but at the same time brought new focus to the increasing number of homeless people who must sleep on the streets, while apartments sold for millions of pounds are empty. It got my attention focused on how Hornsleth, with his manipulations, actually manages to expose some sore points: to make basic absurdities in society today visible.

There is no doubt that Hornsleth violates almost every taboo in the art world, and a large number of his art works are offensive – often downright repulsive! But the thing is that Hornsleth’s projects are actually aimed at arousing this reluctance or resistance. As a concept and performance artist, Hornsleth has made the provocation an art, and he navigates with great success and awareness in the media and the public. Now Hornsleth will be presented for the first time at a Danish art museum. We look forward to sharing the exhibition SUPER CRASH with you all.