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Per Kirkeby’s Brick Works

Galleri Susanne Ottesen, Copenhagen

June 28th 2021

Susanne Ottesen, Arne Fremmich, Caroline Marie Ballegaard


It was the first business trip since September; Copenhagen for three days of work on the second volume of the “Catalogue Raisonné” of Kirkeby’s Brick Works. This second volume will be the unrealised projects. The team included Susanne Ottesen, gallerist of record for the Bricks; Arne Fremmich who has been the right hand of Per Kirkeby throughout decades of building these works; Caroline Marie Ballegaard the primary researcher for the Bricks. It was the first time the four of us have sat around the table in two years. In the fall of 2019, Caroline and I spent three days at the Museum Jorn in Silkeborg where the archives have been placed by the artist. 

Arne Fremmich, Caroline Marie Ballegaard, on the wall: Ian McKeever

My first experience of the archives of Brick Works dates back to 2017 when they were housed in Aarhus. In preparation for the Beaux-Arts exhibition, we spent several days there, all of us, going through the files that Per Kirkeby himself had made for each project. Now again after Caroline had revisited them all, we have come up with a list of at least 50 unrealised projects; many with enough documentation to be able to build them for the first time. What a treasure trove.

Arne Fremmich, Susanne Ottesen

Don’t want to give away the content just yet, suffice it to say that there are major projects on both sides of the Atlantic, and in half a dozen European capitals at least. 

Wanted you to see what this kind of work involves; long hours looking at what the artist left us in his project files, documents, handwritten notes, sketches, drawings, sometimes depending on how far along the project developed. He often made large-scale watercolour sketches of certain aspects of a given idea. We are lucky to have so many of these, to feel the hand of the artist even now. Going through this material after making Volume I (works that he created for exhibitions and then took down afterwards). With “Unrealised Projects” there are proposals, applications for competitions, commissions, which for one reason or another didn’t in the end happen.  Here are long arduous projects that are enough to make many people lose faith all together; a less tough-minded artist could have easily said, why carry on with these projects?

Caroline Marie Ballegaard


Per Kirkeby, in addition to his other on-going artistic work, kept curiously thinking about building brick structures in towns and city centers, to accompany new buildings or new parts of an urban fabric. He had an appetite for pushing bricks into another realm entirely. In a madcap utopian way, pulling and pushing forms into new constellations of visual pleasure.

Per Kirkeby’s Brick Works

In the photos enclosed, you see the team at the conference table at Galleri Susanne Ottesen, which is also a wonderful library. We studied the list and files for over four dozen unrealised projects, going one document after another to see which works should be “unfolded” in greater detail and which not in the book. We looked on the computer at watercolours that depicted elements and details of projects, or correspondence from people once deeply embedded in the art world of the 1980’s, 1990’s and beyond. The most recent of these projects was a project for Tønder, in 2003.  Just as an example of the artist in the throws of a big year, in 2002 he made projects for Hannover, Buenos Aires, Huset, New York City, Freiburg, Luxembourg, and Calais. That is stamina.

Per Kirkeby’s Brick Works

It is hard to describe the energy you feel in going through an artists’ thinking like this. As if he is standing just over your shoulder with each piece of paper or note scribbled alongside a hand-drawn rendering. It is oddly personal, like reading through a friend’s diary after they have gone. We are lucky that he was conventional enough to keep things for the future, maybe it was to recycle an idea that he found one day and knew it was not going to matter just yet, but would be something useful down the road. There is a sense of that here. Ideas kept in a bank growing more valuable over time.

Arne Fremmich, Susanne Ottesen

Somehow it is meaningful that the last works he made in his lifetime were bricks and the last exhibition in his lifetime was the brick sculptures shown in Paris in 2017 at Beaux-Arts. Did we know at the time how historic this would be down the road? Perhaps we had an intuition. Now, without him, we have the works themselves that will do the talking. 

“Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 1 The Complete Bricks”, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln, Graphic Design: Studio Claus Due

© All photographs by JSVC

At work at Galleri Susanne Ottesen, Copenhagen

Team: Susanne Ottesen, Arne Fremmich, Caroline Marie Ballegaard, Victor Perlheden Architectural Drawings (not in the photo), Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts