Copenhagen’s art-hub called Karrier is a subversive top-tier art installation, because it actually functions as an every day restaurant-bar. The food is not serving the art; it's the other way around. In this sense, Karrier is at once the most "digestible" and the most subversive mixture of food and art.
The food and drinks at Karriere are classic, comforting, seasonal and healthy, but the main draw is the interactive and conceptual pieces of exclusive, site-specific art on display in every aspect of the space, from the table settings to Gardar Eide Einarsson’s graffiti-like black markings on the bathroom walls.
Located in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro meatpacking district, Karrier was started by Danish sculptor Jeppe Hein and his sister Lærke Hein in November 2007. The siblings even got twin tattoos by Douglas Gordon, a piece titled "some words between children" as his contribution to their venture. When Hein scouted the space, he could have rejected the location because of zoning restrictions that required him to retain the structure and basic interior design of the former butchery. Instead, the space's initially prosaic appearance offers a perfect platform for the subversive art it contains. Despite the massive Olfar Eliasson lamps, which come in sizes called "local career," "national career" and "international career," and Dan Graham’s diving walls between outside tables, at first glance Copenhagen’s unparalleled canteen for the local art community seems like a typical diner. However, almost every item in the space is a work of art by a leading international or Danish artist.
The restaurant’s name was contributed by Elmgreen and Dragset. Written in eighties-style hot pink neon cursive, the sign at the entrance recalls one of the glowing Tracey Emin word sculptures that hang in the London’s Rivington Bar & Grill and a few other hip establishments.
But unlike Emin’s art, the "Karriere" piece is about the man who owns the work, not the artists who made it, because the punch line was that Elmgreen and Dragset were not only offering art, but also their blessings that Karriere would make Hein’s career. Hein initially opened Karrier as an all-day eatery so that artists could stop in for breakfast and watch their dinner being unpacked by the butchers outside in the active meatpacking locations surrounding the space, but the nightlife became so festive that Karrier turned its focus toward more traditional artists’ hours. In this sense, Karriere also acts as a meta-statement about the nature of the art-world itself. The name succeeded for Hein but it also serves as a signifier that networking in the art-world happens over pints, not desks. "It highlights the fact that the bar is an institution and a power structure in the art world," Hein explains. "It is a venue where contacts are made among artists and personal careers promoted, but also a location where certain artist constituencies are cold-shouldered." By establishing itself as an institution within the Danish and even international art scene, Karriere transcends the temporality associated with art involving food and positions itself as a significant part of the art culture.
--Ana Finel Honigman, writer living in Berlin