Asger Jorn, along with Guy Debord (1931–1994) and Michèle Bernstein (b. 1932), was a co-founder of the revolutionary avant-garde Situationist International movement. Jorn first studied teaching at the Vinthers Seminarium, Silkeborg, before moving to Paris in 1936 to study painting; first with Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), and later Fernand Léger (1881–1955) at the Académie Contemporaine (Contemporary Art Academy). Jorn returned to Denmark in 1937, studying at the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi (Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts), Copenhagen, before the German occupation of Denmark in 1942, after which he joined the city’s communist resistance.
The postwar period was Jorn’s most productive. He was a co-founder of the avant-garde CoBrA group in Paris in 1948 and was a key figure in the “International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus,” a CoBrA offshoot. With the French lettrist Guy Debord, he helped form the Situationist International in 1957.
Jorn’s work was exhibited widely in the 1950s and ’60s, including major exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Basel; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Louisiana Museum, Denmark. Most famously, he refused the 1964 Guggenheim Prize, responding to the announcement with a scathing telegram that accused the museum of trying to promote itself by including an artist “against his will.”