A controversial artist has exhibited three homeless men for 48 hours inside a glass case in Denmark – after four major galleries in the UK turned down the project.
‘Disneyland for the sick’ is the brainchild of Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth.
The installation – which Kristian says was turned down by four major UK galleries because it was deemed too controversial – attracted 2,000 people to the Kunstmuseum in Randers, Denmark this weekend.
The artist said that the men are English because the project started in England but had to move when galleries in London feared getting ‘a brick through the window’ because it is so controversial.
A group photo of Kristian and his art subjects, some of whom participated in his latest piece
Three rough sleepers were flown over from London to take part as well as each receiving £2,000 after their portraits sold for £28,000 each.
Von Hornsleth said: ‘It’s not because I don’t want to exhibit it in England, but my two galleries over there won’t have anything to do with it.
‘They think it is too controversial, they are too scared to get a brick through the window.’
The three men inside the display box in the Kunstmuseum in Randers, Denmark this weekend
Kristian von Hornsleth (centre) with participants in his works reacting to media coverage
Group photo of Kristian and his art subjects who he flew to Denmark from their native England
He added that over the weekend in its adopted home, the exhibition was at first ‘very intimidating for everyone.’ He said audience stayed several metres away from the box but after half an hour they started to interact.
‘It was very touching. People started to relax and it became very warm-hearted in the end,’ said the artist.
‘We’re very proud of the guys, they did fantastically well and they’ve all decided to turn their lives around.
Kevin, who participated in the display at the Kunstmuseum in Randers, Denmark
‘We’ve empowered them – now they want to be activists and no longer passive beggars in the street, and hopefully this is the start of that.’
The rough sleepers sat in a glass display case in the museum in two-hour shifts after making it past customs to arrive in Denmark. They stayed in a hotel paid for by the artist.
Kristian said he aimed use the display to show how homeless people are ‘severely mistreated’ by bureaucracy.’
Museum director Lise Jeppesen told a Danish TV channel why she took a punt on the exhibition, and the controversial artist.
She said: ‘So one says ‘they are too weak to have meaning as independent individuals themselves. It may well be they say they want to and they see themselves as co-creators, but I know better so I know they don’t know what they say yes to. I say ‘okay, then Kristian has the room’.
Former British soldier Darren O’Shea (left) and another subject as part of a previous project
His latest work is part of his SUPER CRASH exhibition, which will take place in the same museum until the end of July.
His previous ‘Buy a Homeless’ project saw ten rough sleepers in London ‘sold’ and given tracking devices.
Kristian added: ‘The homeless guys are a mirror image of the future of Denmark.
‘They are the ones whose existence we’d rather forget.
‘These people have been living a slum existence for 20 years and have faced everything.
‘They are mistreated by the system. People needed to see them with their own eyes.
‘Perhaps you can see in them a reflection of yourself, or you can walk by them and feel glad that you haven’t been forced into homelessness with a syringe in your arm.’
Former British soldier Darren O’Shea, 41, who became homeless after his family life broke down in 2014
‘After decades of privatisation, the dismantling of the welfare state, and now the surveillance capitalism of the tech giants, the arts will have to be the ones pressuring the powers that be, by becoming more activist..’
Each of the rough sleepers come from the UK, including former British soldier Darren O’Shea, 41, who became homeless after his family life broke down in 2014.
Darren, from Peckham, London, served as a rifleman in the Royal Green Jackets from 1997 to 2004 and served in Northern Ireland and the Balkans.
The 41-year-old was sleeping in the doorway of a theatre in the West End when he was asked to take part in the project, but has since turned his life around and is currently studying for a Master’s degree in social science and homelessness.
He said: ‘It went brilliantly, so many people turned up.
‘It was alright, it was a bit like being back on the street again – but we were there for a very serious reason which I think we got across.
‘At first people were shocked when they saw us, then they realised we were having fun.
‘People were welling up because they found it emotional.’
Anothe rone of the men told Danish TV: ‘Well, we’re always getting looked at nayway whether it’s here or on the street. There’s no difference really.’