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Sun clock

Title and year
Sun clock, 1998


Piet Hein, 1905-1996

The traffic island on the corner of Jernbanegade and Løgumklostervej, Aabenraa


What time is it? This is a classic question for travellers. If Sun clock, by the beloved Danish artist, inventor, and humourist Piet Hein, had been here while trains still came all the way to Aabenraa, one could simply have consulted this sculptural timepiece, located on the traffic island just east of the railway station, to find out.

The sculpture was purchased by Jens Terp Nielsen – then the managing director of the large local manufacturing company Abena – who also owned the old Aabenraa railway station, where, for a time, he ran an exhibition venue called BaneGården Kunst og Kultur. In 1998 the venue held an exhibition of Piet Hein’s work, and in this context Sun clock was gifted to Aabenraa Municipality.

In addition to drawing, mathematics, design, and philosophy, Piet Hein devised and cultivated a crisp, witty lyrical format he called gruk in Danish (some of which were published in his own English translations as Grooks). He made a Danish–English grook pair to accompany this sculpture design, and both appear on the columnar base of the clock, written on a small plaque that is shaped like a ‘superellipse’ – a signature form Hein also designed:

Her ses tiden uformummet
hentet ind fra himmelrummet,
Helios i eget billed
i en Helix forestillet. 

Here is time in heavenly grace,
Hither brought from outer space,
Helios uncomplicated
in a helix concentrated.