22 Rising Artists Designed Tarot Cards for This Copenhagen Show

From the Fool to the World, an artist was tapped to imagine each phase of the fool's journey.

Caroline Absher, The World (2024) Oil on canvas. Photo: Eighteen Gallery

Although tarot and art have flirted over the past few centuries, a new show opening in Copenhagen on May 3 unveils their all-out affair. Danish artist Rose Eken has curated “The Fool’s Journey” for Eighteen Gallery in the Danish city. Some 22 artists of many backgrounds and bents encapsulated whichever one of the tarot’s Major Arcana cards Eken pulled for them. The curator herself drew the highly misunderstood Death.

Eken’s relationship with tarot “began with my interest and study of the female artists connected to the surrealist movement; such as Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, or Ithell Colquhoun,” she said, “who all have worked a lot with the symbolism of tarot or even made their own tarot decks.”

A photograph of a mixed media, sculpted, rectangular-shaped artwork comprised mostly of botanical and insect motifs

Rose Eken, Death (2024). Black mirror and glazed ceramic. Photo: Eighteen Gallery

Interest in divination is exploding as global uncertainty intensifies, yet few fine artists—save for Hilma’s Ghost—have dared yet to design their own deck. “The Fool’s Journey” took shape years ago, as Eken and artist Albin Werle (also in the show) played with taking on the project themselves. They soon realized, as Eken recalled, that “even daring to attempt to render all 78 cards could take a lifetime!”

A photograph of a rectangular, portrait orientation artwork which depicts a skeleton sitting despondent in a chair in all black and relief

Frederik Exner, The Devil (2024). Photo: Eighteen Gallery.

Instead, Eken focused on the most iconic cards—tarot’s Major Arcana, which begins with the Fool (symbolizing a fresh start and total innocence), and ends with the World (symbolizing completion). Each of the 20 sequential archetypes in between illustrate “the fool’s journey,” or the character’s ascension from naivety to knowing. Eken asked her gallery of 10 years whether it would let her host the show to accommodate the “tight white cube hang” she envisioned. Then, she amassed 21 artists and pulled cards to determine their assignments.

A photo of a triangular shaped blue artwork with one cut out on each side depicting printed scales within its bounds

Nina Hartmann, Justice (2024) Encaustic medium, pigment and inkjet print on wood panel. Photo: Eighteen Gallery

In addition to requesting that all contributions measure ​​around 28 by 18 inches for continuity, Eken also asked her artists for entirely new works. Every single result is surprising, but some are more straightforward. Nina Hartmann’s Justice, for example, embodies balance through printed scales and the work’s sculptural, triangular form. Frederik Exner’s mixed-media relief of The Devil features Satan’s throne and perfunctory dark overtones.

A photograph of a bronze artwork where three women's heads form a circle with little wine glasses beneath us

Anna Stahn, Strength (Tribute to us all) (2024). Photo: Eighteen Gallery.

By contrast, Anna Stahn’s patinated bronze evokes the minor arcana’s Three of Cups card more than the assignment she actually got, but while “the tarot card of Strength resembles a woman alone with a lion,” Stahn said, “I feel the most strength in groups of friends.” Siri Elfhag’s decision to envision The Magician as an octopus reminds viewers that poltergeists don’t make the tarot function—the cards simply harness semiotics to access a reader’s innate ESP.

And although Caroline Absher was at work finishing her solo booth for the Independent art fair with New York gallery Fredericks & Freiser, she channeled the full rainbow—and what looks like a self-portrait—into The World. “I learned that I enjoy working from a conceptual prompt,” she said. “It helps that The World is one of the most positive and encouraging cards.” Her work will join its cohorts in a tarot book to be made commemorating the show.

“The Fools Journey” will be on view at Eighteen Gallery, Slagtehusgade 18c, 1711 Copenhagen, Denmark, May 3–31. On-site tarot readings will be available to book through the gallery’s website.

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