The Danish artist Frederik Nystrup-Larsen’s best known piece is a textured concrete vase that looks like it was carved from coral or volcanic rock. Three versions currently sit, holding freshly sprung beech tree branches, inside Noma, the Nordic restaurant that is frequently ranked among the best restaurants in the world, which reopened after a one-year hiatus in a new location in Copenhagen in February. Noma could dramatically raise Nystrup-Larsen’s profile, but the piece has humble origins: It began as a last-minute Christmas present for his mother.
Nystrup-Larsen, 25, produced the Mater vase — named after the Latin word for “mother” — with his friend, the Danish-Swedish artist Oliver Sundqvist, who, like Nystrup-Larsen, graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts last summer. Both designers put a version of the finished vase under the tree for their mothers in December. Lea Kargaard, of the design and architecture practice Studio David Thulstrup, which handled the interior design at Noma, spotted the piece on Instagram not long after the holiday. The firm commissioned the duo to produce three more vases ahead of the restaurant’s launch.
From left: Shelves in Nystrup-Larsen’s studio display examples of his work; a Mater vase.
A Mater vase (right) at Noma in Copenhagen.
Moulded by hand using pigmented concrete, the Mater vase looks like “it could be a part of a tree,” said Nystrup-Larsen recently, sitting at a wooden table in the basement studio he rents in Norrebro, a multicultural neighbourhood in northern Copenhagen. The organic feel of the piece fits in perfectly at Noma, where chef René Redzepi pioneered foraging for underused local ingredients such as sea buckthorn and reindeer moss. With a diameter of 17 inches, the vase can also be flipped around and used as a table or a stool — an interpretation on the Danish design tradition of merging form and function.
That legacy is “such a big part of me,” Nystrup-Larsen acknowledged. “It’s my cultural heritage and it’s probably in everything I do.” Indeed, he grew up a five-minute bicycle ride from the world-class Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Espergærde, a town 25 miles north of Copenhagen. At five, “when the other guys went to soccer, I would go to drawing classes” at the museum, Nystrup-Larsen said. “In a way, I was born into this. I don’t know anything else.”
Nystrup-Larsen sketches vases that he plans to make for an exhibition with the Danish-Swedish designer Oliver Sundqvist at Tableau, a newly opened flower shop in Copenhagen, in September.
Currently, he’s making Mater vases for the fashion and design store Totokaelo in New York City, and this week, the Copenhagen gallery V1 will present his work as part of a group show at VOLTA, Basel’s fair for emerging artists. Late this year, Nystrup-Larsen hopes to stage his first solo exhibition, in Copenhagen, which will feature a series of large iron lamps inspired by rice paper lanterns. But for now, he’s a fixture at a restaurant where the menu is constantly in flux depending on what’s in season. He defines his work as both “very tactile” and “very romantic,” but otherwise, he resists labels. While studying spatial art at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, he balked at questions about his preferred genre. “‘Are you a sculptor? Are you a furniture designer? Do you do installation art?’ It depends on the project,” he said. “Why should I pick something?”
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