The Octopus Dress in Denmark
The Danish couturier Erik Mortensen is honoured by placing a bronze dress in front of the Dress Vocational School in Odense.
The sculpture is created by the sculptor Jens Galschiot who takes his starting point in Erik Mortensen’s famous Octopus Dress, which has its name after the pattern that is stretching out its tentacles all over the dress. The blue pattern is covered with thousands of spangles and baroque pearls on the simple white background.
The dress is now placed on the Dress Vocational School, where designer Elisa Steffensen is making copies so that Galschiot is able to experiment with the expression towards the final bronze sculpture.
The cooperation between Erik Mortensen and Jens Galschiot started back in 1990, where they first agreed to make a sculpture starting with one of Erik Mortensen’s creations. This cooperation, however, was never fulfilled because of Erik Mortensen’s break with Balmain.
It was the headmaster of the Dress Vocational School, Karen Majgård, who invited the two artists to resume their old cooperation and create a sculpture to the new school of the Dress Vocational School at the old glassworks in Odense.
Jens Galschiot visited Erik Mortensen in Paris shortly before Christmas 1997, where the more definite agreements were established. However, at that time Erik Mortensen was so marked by illness that the project was suspended for the time being. Shortly before his death Erik Mortensen managed to point out the Octopus Dress as the most beautiful for a bronze sculpture. Shortly before Christmas 1998 the dress arrived in Denmark through Erik Mortensen’s friend, Jean Pierre Michaud. It is lent by The House Jean-Louis Scherrer, Paris, where Erik Mortensen worked his last years.
By a persistent effort the chairman of the school, Merete Aarup, succeeded in providing 400,000 DKK, which were the costs of all the project. Local Funen funds like Thomas B. Thriges Fund, Bikubens Fund, Engineer N.M. Knudsens Fund and Nykredit Fund have contributed.
The sculpture is expected to be put up 18th-19th June 1999 on Brummer’s Place in Odense in front of the entrance of the Dress Vocational School, where it will be unveiled in connexion with the yearly fashion parade and final exhibition.
THE DRESS VOCATIONAL SCHOOL AND THE OCTOPUS DRESS
The Dress Vocational School consists of two schools: Odense Vocational School and Odense Needlecraft College, Odense.
The vocational school is the oldest needlecraft school in Denmark, established 1910 by Nathalie Hansen. Very fast the school developed qualifications for teaching activities and 1998 it moved to the former Odense Glasswork, where 230 pupils and students are filling out the frames of 5.000 square meters.
Through time the school has had connexion with the Danish couturier Erik Mortensen, who received pupils and students in Paris in connexion with study visits. Erik Mortensen was very much interested in the project to transform one of the haute-couture-dresses to a bronze sculpture and donate the right of use to the headmaster of the Dress Vocational School, Karen Maigaard, in the autumn 1997.
Designer and college teacher Elise Steffensen is to lead the extensive work to recreate the dress.
The pupils and the students of the Dress Vocational School take part in this transforming process and turn the copies on to Jens Galschiot. Elise Steffensen has been attached to the Dress Vocational School for many years and took part in Erik Mortensen’s exhibition on the National Museum of Art 1995. She has the knowledge of many years of haute couture as well as teacher as her own education and after-education.
The Dress Vocational School offers classes and education inside different lines. Odense Vocational School offers:
Clothing, idea and design, textile and animation. Odense Needlecraft College offers:
Couture, idea, design and textile.
Through the last three years the school has gone through a transformation: The old houses on Langelinie have been a left and the former, now highly modernized Glasswork has begun to be used. The educations have now changed from being a unit education with clothing as headline to hold a variety inside modern design and animation. The first needlecraft teachers with the new educations will be finished in June 1999, where Erik Mortensen’s Octopus Dress will be unveiled as Jens Galschiot’s bronze sculpture.
In order to carry out the project the economic background has to be solid. The chairman of the school Merete Aarup takes the credit of this solidity by a corporation with some solid Funen funds who have contributed like this:
Thomas B. Thriges Fund 200,000 DKK
Bikubens Fund 100,000 DKK
Engineer N.M. Knudsens Fund 50,000 DKK
Nykredits Fund 50,000 DKK
JENS GALSCHIOT AND THE OCTOPUS DRESS
The Funen sculptor Jens Galschiot is in public mostly known for his widespread international art happenings about the less flattering sides of the human being. My Inner Beast, 20 very heavy sculptures, which were put up in big European cities 1993. The Silent Death in connexion with UN’s social summit in Copenhagen 1995, where he hung up 15 tons of ‘children’s body’ and spread 13 millions of trading stamps to visualize the yearly death of children in the world, and The Pillar of Shame, an 8 meter high obelisk of human bodies which for the first time was put up in Hong Kong 1997 in connection with China’s taking over, and which the next 10 years will be copied and put up all over the world, next time in Mexico City April ’99.
But Jens Galschiot has a less aggressive side too. In 1992 he made a bigger setting up of sculptures on the world exhibition Expo 92 and since the middle of the eighties he has worked with the fascination of clothing, which he has transformed into bronze. This fascination has caused a corporation with more couturiers, among others Erik Mortensen and Jean Voigt, just as he created the clothing industry’s gift for Queen Margaret the jacket of the ring career, which is exhibited in Marselisborg Slotspark.