Paola Paleari (b. 1984) is an Italian free-lance writer, editor and curator.
After a Master Degree in Design, she takes her first steps into the art world in Prague. Later on, she moves to Rome where she specializes in contemporary photography. She is currently based in Copenhagen.
Among her main projects, she is Deputy Editor at YET magazine and member of artnoise, a web portal and curatorial collective dealing with contemporary art and culture.
Her area of interest is the photographic language and its relations with the visual art practices.

Notes on the text
(1) Accordingly to the current Monocle Quality of Life Survey, the primacy passed to Vienna in 2015.
(2) Founded in 1987, it was the only Danish national museum dedicated specifically to photographic art.

Image captions
(Cover) Mario Schifano, Paesaggio TV, 1970
(1) Filmstationen
(2) Absalon Kirkeby, Double, 2014
(3) Nicolai Howalt, Light Break, Wavelength 490 nm, 2015
(4) Ebbe Stub Wittrup, Quote from an unknown philosopher, 2016, Kunsthalle São Paulo
(5) Fabrikken For Kunst og Design
(6) Jesper Fabricius, Kunsthæfte nr. 15, 2008
(7) Emil Ronn Andersen, Automate and Perish, 2014, Danske Grafikere Hus
(8) Anu Ramdas, Orbiter, 2015
(9) One Thousand Books, Manifolds, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2016
(10) Pia Arke, Legende I-V, 1999
(11) Young Danish Photography, Fotografisk Center, 2015

It can sound quite bizarre that the new 'Focus On' we launch today on YET magazine is about Copenhagen, after the first ones being on South Africa, Russia and Brazil. It takes approximately half an hour to cycle across this compact and handy Scandinavian city: in all probability, within the same span of time, one does not even overstep the neighborhood's borders in Johannesburg, Moscow or Sao Paulo. In fact, the whole Denmark isn't comparable to none of the big countries mentioned above, with a total population of less than six millions people, of which a sixth part living in the capital. But, as Sallust said, it's harmony that makes small things grow; and with no doubt Copenhagen, thanks to a satisfying balance between freedom and efficiency, can claim itself one of the most attractive places-to-be when it comes to the creative scene.

Having moved here a few months ago, I was curious of first-hand testing the reasons of its coronation as “the word's most livable city” for many years in a row (1). Actually, while on some of the most frivolous metrics the Danish capital doesn't really put a smile on your face (the cost of a coffee or a glass of wine, for example), there’s a list of other more profound features having a long term impact, such as how much culture a city has and the level of education it provides, that are Copenhagen's pride and joy.

The cultural offer is surprisingly rich and diversified, if compared to the urban dimensions: museums, galleries, artist-run spaces, studios, workshops, residences are flourishing all over, fostered by a young and active population and supported by a very present government – two elements that still sounds miraculous to the ears of a free-lance writer in her thirties coming from Italy, the land of zero growth and no welfare.

The art scene in Copenhagen is small enough to make it possible for everybody to know each other and always be informed about what's going on – an aspect that could be considered boring or repetitive for the ones who belongs to it; but which, on the other side, boosts fertile collaborations and cross-contaminations between different environments. For what I have seen so far, the independent scene in particular has a lot of potential and character, enough to exercise influence on the institutional circuit through its choices. One example for all is One Thousand Books, that will open the agenda of this 'Focus On': started in 2013 as an independent and experimental art book festival by Johan Rosenmunthe and Flemming Ove Bech, founders of the publishing platform Lodret Vandret, it passed from taking place into a supermarket to occupying the halls of Kunsthal Charlottenborg, one of the largest and most influent contemporary art spaces in Denmark. The interesting thing here is not the upgrading to an “institutional recognition” in itself, but rather the approach that looks at a museum or a supermarket as equally accessible and feasible places where to bring, discuss, promote and sell art books.

Among the discoveries I have made along my research phase, the accessibility, availability and speciality of space(s) is surely one of the characteristics that impressed me most. Call me romantic, but I fatally fell thrall to the charms of Jesper Fabricius' atelier at Fabrikken For Kunst og Design: to reach his studio I first had to cross a cathedral-like factory hall, where a team of people were busily messing around with a huge wooden scenography of a house to be used for a film; and while I was still captured by what I had just seen, I entered into a room so filled with books, magazines, posters, boxes and folders to the point of having to follow a obligatory path between walls of papers in order to find a corner where to sit and talk.

I felt the same fascination when I visited Absalon Kirkeby's studio at Filmsationen: a huge site in the western outskirts of the city, originally built to host hangars for helicopters of the Armed Forces and the Queen’s Challenger aircraft, now turned into a nordic empire of film production facilities. The place is still full of details from its previous time, and I couldn't help myself from using the binoculars in Absalon's atelier to scan the spacious deserted landscape out of the window, while he was setting his large sized prints up on the walls for an unexpected - and much appreciated - express display of his works.

But not all that glitters is gold: narrowing the analysis down to photography, it seems like Copenhagen is not exempt from the insufficiencies that trouble this field elsewhere in the world. After the Museet for Fotokunst in Odense (2) merged into the larger Brandts in 2013, and apart from the Fotografisk Center promoting awareness about what Danish art photography has to offer, those involved in presenting photographic works can be referred to a bunch of mainly small enthusiastic photographic galleries in Copenhagen and Aarhus. On the educational level, there are cutting-edge photo schools such as Fatamorgana and the Copenhagen School of Film, but no Master degree course dedicated solely to photography is offered in Denmark. Without going into the lights and shadows of teaching photography (sneak peek on YET's next issue), it is therefore natural that many Danish photographers study overseas – bringing back, in the best of scenarios, new inspiration and knowledge to their home country.

The positive side effect of this situation, informed by rich potential and loose establishment, is a high level of independence and open-mindedness in the approach of many artists to the lens-based matter, that has been translated into an acquired sense of confidence in the hybridization between photography and other media. Also in the changes the genre of documentary is undergoing - with practitioners questioning its definition and blurring its borders - Denmark is in first line, together with all the Nordic countries.

All in all, it is in the smooth mix of local circumstances and international awareness that the Danish photographic art scene, epicentered in Copenhagen, has found its way and started to obtain world-wide recognition. Through my selection and in the time-span I was given, I tried to cover as many aspects of this phenomenon as possible, yielding both to independent artists and publishers, as well as to academic writers and institutions. HÃ¥ber I vil nyde det!

List of articles:
One Thousand Books 2016. An overview, by Magali Avezou
A conversation with Nicolai Howalt, by Paola Paleari
An interview with Jesper Fabricius, by
Young Danish Photography. Almost 20 years of an exhibition series, by Ingrid Fischer Jonge
A conversation with Emil Rønn Andersen, by Paola Paleari
Absalon Kirkeby. Angels eating lemons, by Sidsel Carré
A conversation with Anu Ramdas, by Paola Paleari
The Happy Marriage of Concept and Content: New Conceptual Strategies of Socially Engaged Documentary in Contemporary Art, by Mette Sandbye