Artist takes over the rector’s chair

Artist Kirsten Langkilde will be the new rector of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen

Kirsten Langkilde. Photo: Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst FHNW, Basel.

Seen in the light of the growing professionalisation of artistic education – with one of the fallouts being a steadily increasing administrative workload for academy rectors – it is something of a surprise to learn that the new rector of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts is Kirsten Langkilde, who is a trained artist with that very academy as her alma mater. Her appointment has just been announced at the academy, where the beginning of a new academic years is celebrated, as is tradition, with speeches in the great hall, Festsalen. 

For many years now, however, Langkilde (b. 1954) has not had art as her primary occupation. Graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1986, she has lived outside of Denmark since 1988. Initially spending a few years in London, she went on to live in Berlin and later in Basel. Langkilde has held senior positions at higher institutions of art education in Germany and Switzerland alike.

From 1995 to 2011, Langkilde was professor of ‘Ästhetische Praxis’ at Universität der Kunste, Berlin. From 2001 to 2009 she was also pro-rector and dean at the Fakultät Gestaltung (architecture, design and media art) at the same university. Since 2011 Langkilde has been director of the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst FHNW, Basel; she will now leave this position and return to Copenhagen to take the rector’s chair in the Charlottenborg palace in central Copenhagen.

More than thirty years have elapsed since an artist last occupied the rector’s office at the Copenhagen art academy. That artist was Helge Bertram, who held the position from 1980 to 1985. Since then the chair has been held by art historians: Else Marie Bukdahl (1985-2005), Mikkel Bogh (2005–14) and Sanne Kofod Olsen (2014–18). With the appointment of an artist-trained rector, the art academy is in fact returning to a long-held tradition. The vast majority of the rectors who have presided over the academy during its 264 years in existence have been sculptors, painters or architects (up until 1974 artists and architects trained at the same school).

In a press release issued by the Danish Ministry of Culture, Langkilde speaks of her upcoming duties as rector of the academy and chief head of Kunsthal Charlottenborg in these terms: “I will bring all my knowledge and experience to bear in order to strengthen the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and the next generation of Danish artists. My valuable international network will serve as a source of inspiration in this endeavour. I look forward to joining the academy staff and Kunsthal Charlottenborg in creating excellent settings for an open, welcoming art academy that engages in a continuous dialogue with professional artists, institutions and interested members of the public”.

Kirsten Langkilde will take over her new position in early 2019. Up until then, professor Henriette Heise is acting rector.