Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

Kong Christians Allé 50
9000 Aalborg

Phone: +45 99 82 41 00
CVR: 47 21 82 68


Danske Bank

Regnr.: 4368 Kontonr.: 13534926


Henry Heerup – What Would We Do Without Imagination?

Sep 14th 2023 to Apr 1st 2024

This autumn, visitors can step into the magical universe of Henry Heerup in a major exhibition at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg. The title of the exhibition comes straight from the horse’s mouth: "What Would We Do Without Imagination?"

The exhibition poses the artist's question: 'What would we do without imagination?' with the desire to invite people to experience and understand Heerup's magic today.


Henry Heerup (1907-1993) is an original figure in Danish art history and is often referred to as 'folkloric,' widely known for his colorful and symbol-rich expression. Seen today, Heerup stands as the ultimate symbol of freedom, who, as part of the 20th-century avant-garde, sought to re-enchant the world and break the fixed structures of society.


The magical universe of the garden

Henry Heerup's approach was entirely unique and originated from the magical universe of his allotment garden, where thousands of works emerged over the years amidst weeds and wilderness. All of it created out of the desire to unite art and life in a re-enchanted world in harmony with nature.


It is in the garden that Heerup finds his inspiration and indulges in his artistic experiments and insatiable curiosity across a multitude of materials and expressions. It is in the garden where he cares for nature and the immediate surroundings. And it is in the garden where he lives life as a flute-playing elf.


The potential and necessity of imagination

Heerup's works encompass everything from painting, stone sculptures, graphics, trash models to children's books and Christmas plates.


It was all shaped by a great creative spirit and a belief in the necessity of imagination – both in art and in life in general. Heerup saw imagination as a fire burning within us all, which we should actively use.


Throughout his life, Heerup cultivated the magic he saw in the world and in life. With his artworks, he created alternative worlds and forged his own path – free from prejudices and rules. Heerup insisted on the power of play and imagination, and through his art, he showed great care for nature and everything around him. Something that seems more relevant than ever today.


The exhibition presents a wide selection of Henry Heerup's works, spanning over 60 years as an artist. It provides a nuanced look at the artist, who reportedly created one artwork per day. The exhibition shows us that Heerup's works delve into life's big questions, our relationship with nature, the collective fear of war at the time, and the small moments of everyday life.


Fact Box: Henry Heerup (1907-1993)

  • He graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1932.
  • His oeuvre included paintings, stone sculptures, linocuts and the so-called ‘garbage models’.
  • He worked as an artist from the 1930s onwards, and was part of the linien art association (1934-39) and the CoBrA movement CoBrA (1948-51).
  • Throughout his life, he worked in his garden: first in Vanløse and then Rødovre (both suburbs of Copenhagen).
  • During the 1950s and 1960s, he travelled to countries such as Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Turkey and Greece. Awards included Statens Livslange Hædersgave, the Thorvaldsen Medal and the Eckersberg Medal.
  • He was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog.
  • His work featured in a huge number of exhibitions both in Denmark and abroad: for example, the Venice Biennale, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Biennale in São Paulo and MoMA in New York.

Yes, dear elves, goblins, archangels and strange animals etc. … What would we do without imagination? Art’s greatest source of inspiration”.

 – Henry Heerup, 1966


– Nordjyske



– Jyllands-Posten



– Kristeligt Dagblad

Heerup i haven, ca. 1950. Foto: Gunvor Jørgsholm. Heerup Museum


Henry Heerup, Skraldeskulptur, u.å. Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg


Henry Heerup, Æblegren, 1932. Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg


Henry Heerup, Sanserne, 1943. Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg


Henry Heerup, Vanløse-madonna, 1934. Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg

The exhibition is supported by




Lektor Peer Rander Amundsens Fond







Lizzi og Mogens Staal Fonden