Anne Aarsland and Mette Helena Rasmussen are not the typical “best friends in business together” story that we’re used to hearing. They didn’t have a childhood bond that grew into a business partnership. No. In fact, they met on Instagram.
The two connected over a mutual appreciation for the art displayed on each other’s feeds. After one chance coffee meeting where they immediately hit it off, the two women decided to start a project together.
What began as an idea for a one-off art exhibition, jointly curated and displayed in Anne’s home, grew into a full-fledged business venture between these newly minted pals. The gist is that, each month, they select a new home that an owner is willing to open up to the public and curate an entirely new art exhibition grounded in and inspired by the organic space. Then, they open the doors for a Salon—a gathering of people and ideas from the varied communities of Copenhagen to come and engage in dialogue.
And unsurprisingly, along the way, Anne and Mette Helena have developed a unique friendship, bonded through their shared passions and artistic pursuits. Read on for my conversation with these two powerhouse creative women about their art salon, Kunstsalonen.
Linne: Talk to me about how you met, how you became friends, and how you decided to start the business together.
Anne: Actually, we met through Instagram. We were not friends first, we didn’t even really know each other. We just started this business together after one meeting! So I guess it was a little bit risky…
Mette Helena: We had no idea what we were actually starting. We had this meeting and we casually talked about maybe doing something together. We came up with the idea of doing an art exhibition in a private home, in Anne’s home actually, and all of a sudden we had a concept!
Anne: In the beginning it was just supposed to be one exhibition, but the interest was so great and it was so fun, that of course we wanted to make more!
Linne: So, there was just an innate connection and trust there? You both knew that you would be creatively compatible?
Mette Helena: Yeah, I think we already had a feeling based on our Instagram accounts, our aesthetic preferences, our interest in art and design, and interior decoration. Somehow, we felt quite safe jumping into this project together.
Linne: How did you settle on this concept of the salon, and what do you think the format of a salon offers an audience that is unique from other environments of viewing art?
Mette Helena: It’s a very personal experience. It’s interesting for people to come inside a private home and explore.
Anne: I also think that it’s a relaxed atmosphere to experience art–a lot of people get a bit scared going into a museum or a gallery. But, a home is relaxed–we have some wine, we look, and we talk.
Linne: Does seeing the art placed within an existing space change the way you interact with and view the art?
Mette Helena: Yes, I find it to be a more inspiring experience to see the art in an interior. It’s easier to imagine your own home with art once you’ve seen the artwork appear in a home.
Anne: And we create exhibitions where you’re not only looking at art, you’re also hanging out. You sit down on the sofa, you read the paper, maybe you have some coffee, you become part of the lived environment.
Mette Helena: We also try and expand on the exhibition itself. We can add in different experiences such as a music concert, poetry slams, we’ve had academics giving talks. We try to invite different cultural personalities to participate in what is going on at the salon.
Linne: Is each salon organized around a theme or a concept?
Mette Helena: We are always starting out with the home. Once we find a home where the family is willing to be hosts, the home itself becomes the theme, the starting point. Then, we find our artists and artwork from there.
Anne: A lot of our homes are in Copenhagen, the capital, and our next home is in Hellerup, one of the most expensive areas in Denmark. But last month, we had a home in Mors, which is farther away, a totally different neighborhood and audience.
Linne: That’s wonderful that you’re bringing people together who would not necessarily otherwise be viewing this art!
Have you noticed that you both have similar taste in art, or are you drawn to different styles? And, how do you balance your distinct points of view?
Anne: We definitely have similar taste–that’s why I reached out through iInstagram originally. I thought, “Oh, Mette Helena has such a nice home and so much nice art!” I think that’s how we actually became close.
Mette Helena: When we get mail from artists asking if we’re interested in showing their art, we almost always agree completely on what to do. We will always select the same pieces.
Anne: It’s pretty crazy, we creepily agree on everything. We very much have the same taste, but our personalities are very different.
Mette Helena: We are a perfect match because we are good at different things.
Linne: Our editorial theme for the month of October is “Friendship.” I’m curious to hear about how you’ve created a community through this work. It seems like the salons are the perfect setting in which to forge connections through shared interests and conversations.
Mette Helena: Exactly. I think it’s quite interesting that people are willing to lend out their most private spaces for us to open to the public. So much of this project has to do with hospitality, community, love, and the willingness to share.
And personally, Anne and I live quite different lives, but we have this common interest in art and design, and we’ve found a way to share that with each other and with other people.
Anne: Privately, we may have never met each other. But now that we’ve built this working relationship, we spend so much time together and have built a strong friendship. It is very inspiring because I get another perspective from Mette Helena–I get very inspired by the way she does things and what she thinks about a lot of things. So, I think our relationship came out of work, but has grown so much beyond that.
Mette Helena: We have a lot of fun making these exhibitions together!
Anne: And a lot of wine!
Mette Helena: Now, if we have a show to go to or an opening event, we always go together and we feel like a team.
Anne: I think it’s a good way to start a friendship. It’s different from your other friendships.
Mette Helena: Actually, I see Anne much more than my other friends (laughs)!