More than 90% of cultural items at Danish stock exchange rescued from fire

More than 90% of cultural items at Danish stock exchange rescued from fire

As fire tore through Copenhagen’s Old Stock Exchange in mid-April, many people in the Danish capital rushed toward the flames and emerged carrying paintings, sculptures and other important items of Denmark’s cultural heritage.

Seven weeks on and with about half the 17th-century building destroyed, including its dragon-tail spire, Denmark’s culture minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said that more than 90% of the building’s cultural objects had been rescued.

“People from the fire brigade, employees and volunteers just coming out of the streets were helping to save the artworks,” Mr Engel-Schmidt told The Associated Press.

“More than 350 artefacts and paintings were saved from the fire.”

Denmark Fire Recovered Art
National Museum of Denmark paintings conservator Nina Wajnman (James Brooks/AP)

Mr Engel-Schmidt said some items could not be saved, including a sculpture too heavy for rescuers to lift, and artworks painted directly on the building’s walls.

The sculpture was a copy of work by Danish neo-classicist artist Bertel Thovaldsen of King Christian IV who died in 1648. The king is credited with having had the Old Stock Exchange built.

The saved objects are now stored in an air-conditioned National Museum warehouse in Vinge near Frederikssund, about 22 miles, northwest of Copenhagen.

The facility is surrounded by fences, moats, and thick concrete walls.

“Some of the 170 paintings are being restored right now,” Mr Engel-Schmidt said. “Others are in a very good quality and will be on loan to different museums in the months to come so the public and the Danish people can enjoy them again.”

Denmark Fire Recovered Art
A painting saved from the fire is displayed at the National Museum’s warehouse in Vinge (Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

As fire tore through the more than-400-year-old building, even Brian Mikkelsen, chief executive of Denmark’s Chamber of Commerce, which owns the building, ventured in to rescue the art.

Thanks to a carefully created “heritage plan” that listed the most important paintings and sculptures, Mr Mikkelsen knew exactly what to prioritise: a huge painting titled From Copenhagen Stock Exchange by Danish artist P.S. Kroyer.

Completed in 1895, it depicts around 50 men in top hats gathered in the stock exchange’s Great Hall.

“That one was number one,” Mr Mikkelsen said of the painting, which he called a national icon by one of the country’s most famous painters.

He said it “symbolises the rise of Danish industry, society, welfare society and business society”.

Denmark Fire Recovered Art
The outer wall of the Stock Exchange collapsed (Thomas Traasdahl/Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

The cause of the April 16 fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to have started on the roof while it was wrapped in scaffolding because of continuing renovations.

Two days later, a large section of the building’s outer wall collapsed inwards.

Mr Mikkelsen has vowed repeatedly to rebuild the 1615 building, considered a leading example of Dutch Renaissance style in Denmark.

Such a project could take five years or more. Mr Mikkelsen said the financing was in order but did not say how much money had been raised.

Many paintings did not emerge from the fire unscathed, said Nina Wajnman, a paintings conservator with Denmark’s National Museum. She said several suffered water damage from firefighters’ hoses.

The fire in Copenhagen was reminiscent of an April 2019 blaze at Notre Dame in Paris. The 800-year-old cathedral also lost its spire. Its partial restoration is expected to be completed this year.

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