Poul Gernes (1925 – 1996, Denmark) was a painter, sculptor and performer. Active from the 1940s and through the rest of his life, he sought to redefine ideas regarding arts and public space. Known for his bold use of colour and geometric forms, this incredibly graphic style made use of every-day objects and materials. Celebrating a return to decorative arts, his works communicated a strong belief that art is intended for everyone. 

Playfully radical, his influence can be seen throughout a generation of artists in Scandinavia as well as around the world, with many younger artists building on his ideals and iconic style, as they continue to be inspired by his insistence on challenging the ways in which art exists. In 1961, Poul Gernes co-founded the Experimental Art School (Eks-skolen) in Copenhagen, established as a reaction against the institutionalisation of art practices embodied by the Royal Danish Academy of Art at the time.

His mark can also be seen throughout Denmark’s landscape, notably with Copenhagen’s brightly coloured Palads movie theatre, the exterior of which he created in 1989, alongside an impressive 150 other decorative projects throughout the country. His design of the interior of Herlev Hospital—completed in 1976—is still in use, and remains the largest artistic decoration to date in Denmark.

In 1988, Poul Gernes represented Denmark at the Venice Biennial, and since his passing he has received international acclaim, with notable solos at Deichtorhallen (Hamburg), and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebaek) and at Documenta 12 in 2007. His work is found in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Denmark (Copenhagen), ARKEN (Ishøj), ARoS (Aarhus), Daimler Collection (Berlin), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk), HEART (Herning), KUSTEN (Aalborg), Museum Jorn (Silkeborg), Museum Ludwig (Cologne), KØS (Køge), and Sorø Kunstmuseum (Sorø), among many others.

carrie emberlyn