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Carlsberg beer is everywhere in Copenhagen. For those who haven’t been to Denmark, it’s like Budweiser in St. Louis, Heineken in Amsterdam, Guiness in Dublin…
Carlsberg is not only in every restaurant and bar, but it’s the sponsor of Copenhagen’s soccer team, and there’s also a brewery you can visit (an ExBEERience, according to the posters)
But that’s not the only place you’ll find Carlsberg in Copenhagen. You’ll find it in the art.
One of the most famous tourist stops in Copenhagen is the Little Mermaid Statue (based on the story by the Danish fairy tale author, Hans Christian Andersen). That statue was commissioned in 1913 by brewer Carl Jacobsen. You can thank the Carlsberg fortune for her.
You can also thank beer money for two of the best museums in Copenhagen: the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle and the magnificent collection of ancient art and Impressionism at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
When Frederiksborg Castle — a royal residence since the Renaissance and a beloved national monument — burned down in 1859, JC Jacobsen (founder of Carlsberg Breweries) used his fortune to help rebuild the great castle and establish a museum of national history inside. Jacobsen hoped the Danish castle would rival Versailles in France…
Then, in 1897, JC’s son Carl founded his own art museum, Carlsberg Glyptotek to house his world-class collection of ancient sculptures and Impressionist art.
When I think of the big business patrons of art throughout history, I think of the Medici, Chigi, Guggenheim or Annenberg. I even think of Alice Walton using her Walmart fortune to open Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.
I never before thought of a beer company as being a great patron of the arts…
But Carlsberg has ALWAYS been about art. It’s who they are — as a company, a brand, and a family.
Today, I think of beer companies as sponsors of sporting events or making Super Bowl commercials…
But mixing beer with art museums?
After spending some time in Denmark (and visiting Carlsberg, drinking their beer, and then heading out to a museum), it sounds like a great idea to me.
Are there other companies who unexpectedly support the arts?
Let me know you think of any!