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ENGLISH VERSION

VOR TIDS KUNSTMÆCEN,
Peter J. Lassen (1930 – 2019)

– Essay / Nekrolog af Augusta Atla
@ Magasinet Kunst
Tema DESIGN, #3, oktober 2019


  • Et personligt essay om mødet og venskabet med Peter J. Lassen, grundlægger af MONTANA MØBLER og hans uvurderlige betydning som kunstmæcen.

Dengang i 2007, hvor jeg var i 20’erne, lige akkurat var dimitteret fra et kunstakademi i London og havde færdiggjort mit speciale i MA i kunsthistorie, da boede jeg i Venedig, Italien og havde allerede studeret kunsthistorien i 8 år. Jeg havde igen og igen fundet eksempler på fantastiske møder mellem kunstnere og forretningsmænd, som fungerede som kunstmæcener. Lige fra Firenzes Medici-families sponsorater af blandt andre Donatello, Michelangelo og Botticelli til Matisses russiske samler og kunstmæcen Sergei Shchukin, Peggy Guggenheims og Jackson Pollocks samarbejde og Peggys faste økonomiske støtte, og selvfølgelig Vincent van Goghs bror Theo, der sendte sin bror penge hver måned – disse er blot enkelte af de mange biografier, der faktisk forklarer, hvordan kunstnere fik frihed og lov til at udvikle deres kunst uden alt for meget overlevelsespres eller modstand fra politiske systemer. Det forklarer præcis mange af de smukke værker, der nu hænger verden over på alverdens museer. Vi glemmer bare at takke mæcenerne; uden dem var vores museer og vores kunsthistorie fattig, om ikke platte og unuancerede. 

Ydermere skal det siges, at jeg er opvokset sammen med min mor, der var kunsthistoriker, og fra en meget tidlig alder fik jeg den opdragelse, at kunstnere er vitale i et samfund, og at der altid kan ske mirakler mellem kunst og forretning. Selv i den mest penge/profit-orienterede tankegang og kultur er der altid nogen i Europa, der ved, at gennem kunsten kan vi spejle os, reflektere vores dilemmaer, indgyde livsvitalitet, fejre vores uendelige kreativitet og indre frihed, opfinde helt åbne nye tanker og indre frihed samt udødeliggøre myter, personligheder, dyder og mytologier. Jeg var opdraget til at vide, at der altid, til alle tider findes enkelte enestående mennesker, der vil støtte kunsten, på trods af at det ikke kaster penge af sig i deres egen levetid. At man kan se kunsten i en større helhed, med store perspektiver over hundrede år, der handler om, at vi alle arver vores kulturs kunst og kulturelle tiltag og forskning. Hvor mange mennesker har ikke haft glæde af Louvre, van Gogh Museet, Hermitage og Peggy Guggenheim Collection?

Dengang i 2007 tænkte jeg: ”Der må findes én mand i Danmark, der kender og forstår præcis denne vigtige og vitale rolle i historien og i samtiden, som en kunstmæcen har.” Jeg bad min daværende gallerist (Galleri Specta, København) om at arrangere et møde med Peter J. Lassen fra Montana Møbler. Allerede få måneder efter min forespørgsel måtte jeg flyve hjem for at mødes med Peter. I mellemtiden var jeg flyttet til Rom, ind i en lille lejlighed i Trastevere, da jeg havde tænkt mig at blive ved med at rejse i mange år endnu for netop at se, med egne øjne, al den kunst og mesterværkerne i Europa, som jeg havde læst om i bøgerne. At besøge alt lige fra den græske antik til italiensk renæssancemaleri, barokkens skulpturer, impressionistens og symbolistens billeder og frem til modernismens værker, samtidig med at skabe værker og udvikle udstillinger. Det var en noget radikal beslutning, da alle mine nyudklækkede kollegaer blev i de nordeuropæiske byer for at mingle og opbygge et stærkt netværk på samtidens pulserende kunstscene. 

Helt uopfordret, med min lille mappe under armen, 27 år gammel og klædt, eller rettere indviklet, i mit performance-tøj i grå, hvid og sort silke mødte jeg Peter ved et langbord i hans Montana-domicil i København. Jeg vidste overhovedet ikke, hvilke kræfter jeg legede med, hvilken enestående og egensindig rebel jeg gik i møde. Ideen om eller vreden mod forretningsverdenen sad som et hylster omkring mig, men i mine øjne skinnede et lille håb om, at Peter, inde bag ved forretningen, var oprigtigt troende på billedkunst, kunstarv og det kreative element i mennesket som vores uanfægtede og vitale frihed. 

Efter at jeg havde fortalt ham om mine planer det næste år frem, som han lyttede oprigtigt til, samt hvor meget støtte jeg havde brug for, grinede Peter bare og sagde: “Hvad er dit kontonummer?” Jeg var sikker på, at han drillede mig, så jeg lagde mig vandret på gulvet, og med øjnene i jorden sagde jeg: “lyver du?”. For spørgsmålet om et rejsesponsorat var for mig ikke et sjovt spørgsmål, eller for nydelsens skyld, det var derimod absolut overlevelse. Jeg vidste godt, at kunstmarkedet ikke nødvendigvis var gearet til mig, en totalt fri, kompromisløs sjæl. 

Intet, trods min søgen efter en radikal og dygtig kunstmæcen, kunne have forberedt mig på Peter. Peter viste sig ikke kun at blive min kunstmæcen under mine rejser og længere ophold i Rom, Venedig, Paris og Athen i 2008-2010 og i 2013-2017, men vi opbyggede også et venskab, og han fungerede til tider som mentor med sine altid korte, klare, tålmodige og vise ord over e-mail. Peter ville ikke have andet igen for sin støtte end oprigtighed, mod og udviklende kunstpraksis – der var det eneste modkrav. Med helt utrolig vedholdenhed og nysgerrighed fulgte han med i mine værker, tankegange og kunstneriske processer med åbenhed og glæde.

I 2008 havde jeg pga. en udstilling i København atelier og værksted i Peters lade i hans have i Allerød. Selve eventyret om kunstneren og hans mæcen var fuldendt, og selv jeg, der kendte historiens mæcener, formåede at blive forundret og føle mig som en del af et historisk mirakel – kunstneren og hans mæcen. 

I alle disse år 2008-2017 havde vi kontakt, og jeg sendte Peter mange, mange værker fra alle de steder, jeg boede, værker som halvbiografiske notesbøger med teori og abstrakt maleri indbundet af en veneziansk bogbinder, større messingværker med cellostreng, kollager med dukker og kostumer fra Italiens historiske arkiver, malerier og tekstiler bemalet og udformet i Athen og tryk på papir fra diverse værksteder i Rom, Venedig og København. 

Med Peters hjælp lavede jeg performances på scener i Athen, Oslo og Paris, drev mit eget udstillingssted Maison Maca i Athen (2014-2016) og deltog i mange udstillinger i EU. Jeg sendte Peter breve, der var henvendt til en ukendt, breve, der blev del af mine værker. Med denne brevudveksling som metode voksede mit virke støt og godt. Nogle gange tænkte jeg, om det var hans fortid i søværnet, der gav ham en svaghed for en rejsende sigøjner som mig. Ideen om ”brevet” til mæcenen blev nu en større og større del af min kunstneriske metode. Samt den bunke postkort, jeg sendte ham fra mine museumsbesøg, blot med ordet “Tak”. 

Da Peter i juli 2019 over telefonen forsikrede mig om, at vi kunne godt nå kaffe én gang til – han var ikke døende, “Der er masser, jeg gerne vil nå endnu,” forsikrede han mig – i dét øjeblik vidste jeg godt, at vi ikke kom til at ses igen, og jeg sendte ham de mest pink og søde bonderoser. Peter tog afsted på min fødselsdag, den 15. august 2019, og jeg vidste, at noget var galt, for det var første gang i alle disse år, at jeg ikke fik en fødselsdagshilsen fra Peter. Grundet alle mine rejser og år i Grækenland havde jeg lært, at den 15. august i den ortodokse kalender er en af de to vigtigste dage i året, nemlig Jomfru Marias Himmelfart, og uden at være religiøs selv tænkte jeg alligevel: ”Smuk dag, Peter, en festens dag i Grækenland med blomster og dans, der tager du til himmels med kunsthistoriens mest portrætterede dame og muse, Maria.” 

Det hav af værker, forskning og rejser, det kunstnerdrevne udstillingssted, de performances og udstillinger, kunstnerisk udvikling, jeg fik udrettet med Peters hjælp, er helt uvurderlig og havde ikke været muligt uden. Ydermere, den mentale støtte og loyale søjle i mit liv, som vores dialog var, og det kunstner-mæcen eventyr, vi fik gjort til historie, eksemplet på, at drømme kan leves. Det værk vi fik skabt sammen – og måske var det endda dét værk over dem alle, jeg mest søgte, dengang jeg fandt dig, Peter – det er et bevis på, at vi er levende mennesker, ej blot til overlevelse eller lyst, og at kunsten er vores alle sammens og Europas fælles dannelse, grundpille og arv. 

Tak, Peter, du vil altid være savnet.

Augusta Atla
September, 2019, København


ENGLISH VERSION

Our (Danish) Contemporary Art Patron,
Peter J. Lassen (1930 – 2019)

– Essay/Tribute by Augusta Atla
@ Magasinet Kunst (DK)
October 2019


  • A personal essay on my meeting and friendship with Peter J. Lassen, the founder of MONTANA FURNITURE, and his crucial importance as an art patron.

Back in 2007, when I was in my 20s, I had just graduated from an art academy in London and completed my MA in Art History. At the time I was living in Venice, Italy. During my eight-year-long education in art and art history I had repeatedly found examples of amazing relationships between artists and businesspersons who served as their patrons. The Medici family’s sponsorship of the likes of Donatello, Michelangelo and Botticelli; Matisse’s Russian collector and art patron, Sergei Shchukin; the collaboration between Peggy Guggenheim and Jackson Pollock; and of course Vincent van Gogh’s brother Theo who sent his brother money every month – these are just some out of many examples of how artists were granted the freedom to develop their art without excess anxiety about survival or opposition from a political system. It is this tradition that accounts for many of the beautiful works of art now hanging in great museums throughout the world. We simply forget that we owe them to these patrons. Without them, our museums and the history of our art would be poorer, and lacking in dimension and subtlety.

It must also be said that I grew up with a mother who was an art historian, and from a very early age I was taught that artists are vital in society and that in history the most-unexpected miracles occur when art and business come together. Even in the most money- and profit-oriented contexts and cultures in Europe, there is always somebody who is aware that art holds a mirror up to us, getting us to think about our dilemmas, inspiring vitality and celebrating our endless creativity; that art leads to the invention of brand new thoughts and inner freedom, while immortalising our personalities, virtues and mythologies. 

I was brought up to know that, at all times, individuals and people have existed who will support artists, regardless of the commercial success of those artists during the patrons’ own lifetime; that we can view art in the light of previous centuries; and that cultural endeavours and research are everyone’s heritage. How many people’s lives have not been enriched by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice?

Back in 2007, when I was living in Rome in a tiny flat in Trastevere, I thought: “There must be one person in Denmark who knows and understands exactly how important and vital this historic role is in contemporary culture.” I asked my previous gallerist (at Galleri Specta, Copenhagen) to arrange a meeting with Peter J. Lassen of Montana Furniture. Just a few months later, there I was, flying back to Denmark to meet Peter. My intention at the time was to continue travelling for many years to come and see with my own eyes the art and masterpieces of Europe: to visit everything from the sculpture of Ancient Greece, Italian Renaissance painting, Baroque sculpture and the work of the Impressionists to Symbolist painting and the works of Early Modernism – whilst of course creating works and developing exhibitions of my own. It was a somewhat radical decision. At that time, most of my colleagues remained in the cities of Northern Europe to mingle and build strong networks in the vibrant art scene.

Quite innocently my little folder under my arm, 27 years old and wearing a somewhat questionable grey, white and black silk costume I had worn in many of my performances, I met Peter at a long table in his Montana headquarters in Copenhagen. I did not know what I was up against and what a unique rebel was sitting across from me. While I was generally resentful of the corporate world, I also had some hope that Peter was a true believer in the visual arts as part of our common cultural heritage. 

I told him about my travel plans for the next year, which he listened to sincerely, and how much I needed. Peter simply laughed and asked: “What’s your account number?”. I was sure he was teasing me, so I responded: “Are you joking?”. For me, the question of a travel sponsor was no joke. On the contrary, I had made this absolutely serious life choice. I also thought that the art market was not necessarily geared to me, a totally free and uncompromising spirit.

Despite my search for a radical and intelligent art patron, nothing could have prepared me for Peter. Not only did Peter prove to be my art patron during my travels and extended stays in Rome, Venice, Paris and Athens in 2008-2010 and 2013-2017; we also built up a friendship and he served as a mentor with his always short, clear, patient and wise emails. Peter wanted nothing more in return for his support than sincerity, courage and an ever-evolving artistic career. With unbelievable persistence and curiosity, he followed my works, thoughts and artistic processes with openness and joy.

In 2008, with an upcoming exhibition in Copenhagen, I had my studio in Peter’s barn in his garden in Allerød. The fairy tale of the artist and his patron was complete. Even I, who knew about the patrons of art history from books, marvelled. I was part of an historical miracle – the artist and his patron!

During all these years of patronage and travelling, I sent Peter countless gifts: for example, artworks in the form of semi-biographical notebooks fearuring theory and abstract painting, larger brass works with cello strings, collages with dolls and costumes from Italy’s historical archives, paintings and textiles made in Athens and prints on paper from various workshops in Rome, Venice and Copenhagen.

With Peter’s support, I created performances on stages in Athens, Oslo and Paris, ran my own exhibition place, Maison Maca, in Athens (2014-2016) and participated in many exhibitions in Europe. I sent Peter letters addressed to an anonymous person: letters that eventually became part of my works and method. Thanks to this exchange of letters my work evolved steadily and positively. Sometimes I wondered whether it was Peter’s own past in the Navy that had led to his weakness for a gypsy like me. The idea of the “letter” to the patron now became a bigger and bigger part of my artistic method. I also sent him a pile of postcards from my museum visits, simply saying, “Thank you.”

In July 2019, when I phoned him, Peter assured me that we would meet for coffee and, though he was in hospital, he was not dying. “There are still plenty of things I would like to do and accomplish,” he assured me. At that moment, I knew full well that I would not see him again, and I sent him a bunch of the pinkest, sweetest peonies. Peter left the world on my birthday, 15 August 2019, and I knew something was wrong, because it was the first time in all these years that I did not receive a birthday greeting from Peter. Due to all my travels and years in Greece, I had learned that in the Greek Orthodox calendar, the 15th of August is one of the two most important days of the year: the Ascension of the Virgin Mary. Without being religious myself, I thought: “Beautiful day, Peter. A day of celebration in Greece with flowers and dancing. You chose to fly to heaven with the most-portrayed lady and muse of art history, the Virgin Mary.”

The countless art works, all the research and travel, the artist-run exhibition space, the performances and exhibitions, the artistic development that I managed to create have been absolutely crucial to my life and development as an artist and would not have been possible without Peter’s patronage. 

Peter, the mental support and loyalty you gave me and the artist-patron fairy tale we turned into history prove that dreams can come true. The work we created together was the work I was really searching for when I found you. It proves that we are living breathing human beings, that life is not just a question of survival or desire and that art is a vast space for new ways of thinking and for sustaining a healthy heritage built on freedom of speech. Art is a natural part of Europe and one of its greatest virtues.

Thank you, Peter. I will always miss you.

Augusta Atla
September, 2019, Copenhagen, DK



THANK YOU Peter J. Lassen (1930-2019)
Patronship of Augusta Atla (2008-2010, 2012-2017)
BELOW: selected images from patronage

Atelier at Peter J Lassen’s barn, Allerød DK
(2008)



Towards a New World
artwork, handmade book
sponsor gift
Rome, IT (2008)



I am not interested in the aesthetics of mathematics, nor abstraction – however, I like to experiment with the strange counterposition of the personal and the general (grid).
An arm moving
Notebook (Rome, IT, 2008)



One Body and the Orbit of the Sun
nomade theatre stage
sculpture
– sponsored by PJL
(2010)



Montana Møbler
Copenhagen, DK
(2010)



Sensations
Performance
– sponsored by PJL
Michael Cacoyannis Foundation
Athens, GR (2012)



MAISON MACA and participation at Art Athina Art Fair
– sponsored by PJL
Athens, GR (2015)



Female Theatre
Performance
– sponsored by PJL
TPTP ART SPACE
Paris, FR (2010)



I founded and directed MAISON MACA
exhibition hall for contemporary art
– sponsored by PJL
Athens, GR (2014-2016)



Madonna
-sponsor gift
(2018)



Expressionist
performance
– sponsored by PJL
(2010)



I Am Life
atelier at Athens, Greece
– sponsored by PJL
(2014)



Art Research travels in Greece, Italy and France
– sponsored by PJL



Atelier at Venice, IT
– sponsored by PJL
(2007)