The Other Profile, by Irene Graziosi. Translated by Lucy Rand.

Irene Graziosi
Irene Graziosi
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The Other Profile, by Irene Graziosi. Translated by Lucy Rand.

Irene Graziosi
Irene Graziosi

By Lovia Gyarkye

Kevin Systrom, a founder of Instagram, recently confessed that the platform he helped create had lost its soul. Gone are the days when friends and family shared photos with earnest and eager passion. Now, influencers reign supreme. No one is real. It’s “terrifying,” Systrom said on the journalist Kara Swisher’s podcast. “It’s this race to the bottom of who can be the most perfect.”

Maia, the sharp-tongued protagonist of Irene Graziosi’s debut novel, “The Other Profile,” already knows this. She thinks of Instagram profiles like vision boards — evidence of aspiration, not reflections of reality. Her own page counters the trend with an ascetic banality. She prefers not to be perceived.

Maia’s a depressed graduate school dropout living in Milan with her boyfriend, Filippo. He was a professor at the university where she was enrolled, and their courtship was a sweaty encounter of grief (Maia’s, after the death of her sister) and desperation (his). Now, their relationship is sustained by mutual ambivalence. Filippo wishes Maia would do more than eat gummy bears and watch Olivia Benson solve crimes on TV. Maia hates that Filippo dragged her away from Paris and into a city where he is respected and she is unknown.

Maia eventually gets a job — first as a bartender and then as an assistant to an influencer named Gloria, a teenager with millions of Instagram followers. “I’ll need someone who can help me in the public transition from being a high schooler to being ... something else,” Gloria tells her. As part of the job, Maia not only recommends books, writes speeches and composes social media captions, she is also expected to be Gloria’s soul.

Graziosi, the founder of a cultural YouTube channel and magazine, is particularly attuned to the language of the chronically online. Her novel, which is translated from the Italian by Lucy Rand, is at its most nimble when Maia observes influencer culture. The sponsored events, brand meetings and vague clichés about self-love are fodder for her acerbic judgments and acid humor. Gloria’s world is filled with frauds and Maia loves to call them out.

The pair’s relationship enters dangerous territory when Maia finds herself first obsessed with, and then consumed by, Gloria. A mandate issued by Gloria’s manager about her client still haunts me: “You have to give her a personality,” she tells Maia. “That’s how she works; she’s an empty vessel.” As Gloria extracts more and more from Maia, I kept waiting for the novel to make good on the suggestion of psychological thrill. But the stakes of Maia and Gloria’s increased mutual dependence hardly simmer. Graziosi divides attention between this parasitic bond, Maia’s failing relationship with Filippo and how Maia mourns her sister Eva.

Graziosi tries to knit these threads together to add layers of suspense and mystery, but her language struggles to keep up with the demands of the story. There’s an overreliance on direct exposition to carry us through scenes, which undercuts the charm and acuity of Maia’s wry voice in the novel’s early pages. It also softens any tension. Impatience creeps in as nervy prose is replaced with colorless revelations like: “I’m sometimes caught out by how much I’ve changed, even since the previous week. I can’t say precisely what these changes are.”

“The Other Profile” lumbers around, depriving us of specificity as it submits to cliché. By the end, I wondered what Maia, with her lacerating opinions, would think of this fate. How she might feel to know that the intensity of her relationship with Gloria had been tempered by the same hazy sentiments she once mocked. Maybe she’d shrug or, considering the way Systrom now feels about Instagram, maybe she’d find it kind of terrifying.

The New York Times



Portrait by Gustav Klimt Sold for $32 Million at Vienna Auction

 Auctionator Michael Kovacek, co-managing Director of Kinsky Auction House, oversees the bidding during the auction for Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's portrait "Bildnis Fraeulein Lieser," last seen in public in 1925, in Vienna, Austria, April 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Auctionator Michael Kovacek, co-managing Director of Kinsky Auction House, oversees the bidding during the auction for Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's portrait "Bildnis Fraeulein Lieser," last seen in public in 1925, in Vienna, Austria, April 24, 2024. (Reuters)
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Portrait by Gustav Klimt Sold for $32 Million at Vienna Auction

 Auctionator Michael Kovacek, co-managing Director of Kinsky Auction House, oversees the bidding during the auction for Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's portrait "Bildnis Fraeulein Lieser," last seen in public in 1925, in Vienna, Austria, April 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Auctionator Michael Kovacek, co-managing Director of Kinsky Auction House, oversees the bidding during the auction for Austrian artist Gustav Klimt's portrait "Bildnis Fraeulein Lieser," last seen in public in 1925, in Vienna, Austria, April 24, 2024. (Reuters)

A portrait of a young woman by Gustav Klimt that was long believed to be lost was sold at an auction in Vienna on Wednesday for 30 million euros ($32 million).

The Austrian modernist artist started work on the “Portrait of Fräulein Lieser” in 1917, the year before he died, and it is one of his last works. Bidding started at 28 million euros, and the sale price was at the lower end of an expected range of 30-50 million euros. The buyer wasn't identified.

The Im Kinsky auction house said that “a painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades.”

The intensely colored painting was auctioned on behalf of the current owners, Austrian private citizens whose names weren't released, and the legal heirs of Adolf and Henriette Lieser, one of whom is believed to have commissioned the painting. It's not entirely clear which member of the Lieser family was the model.

Klimt left the painting, with small parts unfinished, in his studio when he died of a stroke in early 1918 and it was given to the family who had commissioned it, according to the auction house.

The Jewish family fled Austria after 1930 and lost most of their possessions.

It's unclear exactly what happened to the painting between 1925 and the 1960s, a period that includes the Nazi dictatorship. Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938.

The auction house says there is no evidence that the painting was confiscated then, but also no proof that it wasn't. It ended up with the current owners through three successive inheritances.

In view of the uncertainty, the current owners and the Liesers' heirs drew up an agreement to go forward with the sale under the Washington Principles, which were drafted in 1998 to assist in resolving issues related to returning Nazi-confiscated art.


AlUla Camel Cup Returns to Showcase Saudi Heritage

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the Saudi Camel Racing Federation (SCRF) have partnered to bring forth the highly anticipated second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup. (SPA)
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the Saudi Camel Racing Federation (SCRF) have partnered to bring forth the highly anticipated second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup. (SPA)
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AlUla Camel Cup Returns to Showcase Saudi Heritage

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the Saudi Camel Racing Federation (SCRF) have partnered to bring forth the highly anticipated second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup. (SPA)
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the Saudi Camel Racing Federation (SCRF) have partnered to bring forth the highly anticipated second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup. (SPA)

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the Saudi Camel Racing Federation (SCRF) have partnered to bring forth the highly anticipated second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup. The event kicked off on Wednesday at the Mughayra Heritage Sports Village and will span over four days with the participation of some of the brightest names in the sport from various nations.

The event is an exceptional experience that offers a myriad of activities, valuable prizes, cultural experiences, and art and visual performances to enhance the event.

Activities include camel riding, the “Light Bright” experience, the art of henna, and Arabic calligraphy light shows after sunset.

RCU guests will be treated to a unique local experience that includes roasting and tasting traditional Saudi coffee, discovering local and international flavors at distinctive food and beverage outlets and regional food brands, trendy camel race streetwear, souvenirs, and crafts that reflect AlUla's heritage and history.

AlUla Camel Cup 2024 will also host the AlUla “Design Award” ceremony on Friday. The winning camel covers will be on display in the heart of the heritage village.

In its first edition, the event attracted thousands of participants from around the world, and this year it is expected to witness an even greater turnout, especially with the Ministry of Culture declaring 2024 as the “Year of the Camel”, celebrating its prominent role and place in Saudi culture and heritage.


Saudi Arabia's King Fahd National Library Introduces 'Open Access' Initiative

The library wishes to encourage the public to seek knowledge
The library wishes to encourage the public to seek knowledge
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Saudi Arabia's King Fahd National Library Introduces 'Open Access' Initiative

The library wishes to encourage the public to seek knowledge
The library wishes to encourage the public to seek knowledge

King Fahd National Library has launched a new initiative, called "Open Access", to mark World Book and Copyright Day. It enables free access to a range of its publications on library and information science, Saudi history, and heritage.
By making these publications readily available, the library wishes to encourage the public to seek knowledge, which is vital to individual and societal development.
King Fahd National Library Secretary General Prince Khaled bin Talal bin Badr expressed pride in the initiative, and said that it will help wider dissemination and accessibility of knowledge.
The initiative is part of the library's continuous efforts to foster the culture of reading and scientific research, and position itself as a prominent knowledge hub in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, the "Open Access" initiative aligns with UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, of 2021.
It will benefit library users and strengthen partnerships with private, government, and semi-government entities such as the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP), the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, the Libraries Commission, the Research Development and Innovation Authority, associations, public libraries, specialized libraries, academic libraries, academic departments, and research centers concerned with libraries, information, and publishing.
The "Open Access" approach is the core focus of this initiative; it enables users to freely access scientific and literary books through Creative Commons (CC) licenses that give online access to sources, with certain reuse rights, provided attribution is given to the authors.
The initiative aligns with the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 by promoting the reading culture, scientific research, knowledge dissemination, and accessibility.


Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Brings Together 1,350 Exhibitors from 90 Countries

The 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) will be held from April 29 to May 5
The 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) will be held from April 29 to May 5
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Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Brings Together 1,350 Exhibitors from 90 Countries

The 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) will be held from April 29 to May 5
The 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF) will be held from April 29 to May 5

The 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF), organized by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center (ALC), is expected to host over 1,350 exhibitors from 90 countries, up from 1,300 exhibitors representing 84 countries last year.

The significant number of countries represented embodies the theme of this year's fair, “Where the World’s Tales Unfold,” Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported Tuesday.

Held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC) from April 29 to May 5, this year’s edition will feature 145 new exhibitors and publishing houses participating for the first time, as well as 12 additional countries, including Greece, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Pakistan, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesia.

“The book fair offers an unparalleled opportunity to discover the world’s cultures, providing an enriching experience for the whole family,” WAM said.

“The book fair is a leading cultural and knowledge event with a global reputation, as demonstrated by the large turnout. It underlines the Center’s success in attracting global publishing industry professionals and creators from around the world to fulfil the Fair’s main objective of serving as a platform for intercultural exchange, as reflected in the slogan, ‘Where the World’s Tales Unfold’,” said ALC Chairman Dr. Ali bin Tamim.

The ALC has announced the selection of Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz as the Focus Personality for this year’s Book Fair. Egypt’s rich literary tradition, iconic authors, and profound influence on Arab thought and creativity make it a fitting choice to be celebrated as the Guest of Honor at the fair.


Saudi Ambassador Visits Cultural Attaché Pavilion at Tunis Int’l Book Fair

Saudi Ambassador Visits Cultural Attaché Pavilion at Tunis Int’l Book Fair
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Saudi Ambassador Visits Cultural Attaché Pavilion at Tunis Int’l Book Fair

Saudi Ambassador Visits Cultural Attaché Pavilion at Tunis Int’l Book Fair

Saudi Ambassador to Tunisia Dr. Abdulaziz bin Ali Al-Saqr has visited the pavilion of the Saudi Cultural Attaché participating in the 38th edition of the Tunis International Book Fair.

During his visit on Tuesday, Al-Saqr toured the pavilion and was briefed on the most prominent publications from various participating entities, including the Ministry of Education, King Abdulaziz Complex for Endowment Libraries, King Abdulaziz Public Library, and the Heritage Authority.

The tour was attended by several intellectuals, writers, and poets from both Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Al-Saqr emphasized the significance of this participation, which reflects the strength of relations between the Kingdom and Tunisia across all sectors. He also underscored the prominent role of books in intellectual development and knowledge exchange.

This theme coincides with the announcement of 2024 as the “Year of the Camel” in Saudi Arabia.


Design Space AlUla Attends Milan Design Week as Part of Initiative to Celebrate Cultural Heritage

Design Space AlUla has showcased modern design at Milan Design Week. SPA
Design Space AlUla has showcased modern design at Milan Design Week. SPA
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Design Space AlUla Attends Milan Design Week as Part of Initiative to Celebrate Cultural Heritage

Design Space AlUla has showcased modern design at Milan Design Week. SPA
Design Space AlUla has showcased modern design at Milan Design Week. SPA

Design Space AlUla, a regional center dedicated to celebrating the works of local and international designers, has showcased modern design at Milan Design Week, that concludes Sunday 21.
The exhibition features, among others, projects from the thriving design center that has ambitious plans for the creative industries.
Among the exhibited works are recent projects from the first Arts and Design Center, Madrasat Addeera.
Participating artists from around the world contribute to the diverse collection. Saudi artist Dr. Zahrah Alghamdi's piece titled "Gharameel" draws inspiration from AlUla's distinctive rock formations. Argentine artist Cristian Mohaded's work, named "AlWaha", captures the essence of the desert dunes and palm-filled oases. The Spanish duo "TAKK's Duna" presents the Seating Dune, a versatile relaxation space inspired by the enchanting AlUla desert. TECHNOCrafts, a Spanish design studio, showcases "Alwadiya: The Living Pots", a self-sustaining system that mirrors the natural cycles of AlUla's lush oasis.
Additionally, the exhibition showcases designs from the AlUla Design Residency program. Highlights include "Peculiar Erosions" by artist Leo Orta, inspired by AlUla's mud-brick architecture and unique geology. "From Debris", by Raw Materials, reimagines local historical instruments with materials from the oasis. Architect Leen Ajlan presents "Takki", a modern reinterpretation of traditional recreational spaces. Hall Haus introduces "Haus Dari", a contemporary take on traditional cushions and diwans. "Surface", by Bahraini-Danish architecture firm, is a flexible steel divider facilitating interaction or serving as a screen or curtain.
Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) Nora Aldabal highlighted the significance of the design initiatives at AlUla.
"Our growing design initiatives reflect the ongoing development of AlUla as a hub for traditional design, arts, and innovation,” she said.

“These initiatives celebrate the region's cultural heritage, local materials, and natural history. The exhibited works represent the evolving aesthetics of design in AlUla, capturing the inspiration and continuous dialogue nurtured by our destination, embracing diverse cultures and artistic disciplines."


Would You Like a Cicada Salad? The Monstrous Little Noisemakers Descend on a New Orleans Menu 

Zach Lemann, curator of animal collections for the Audubon Insectarium, prepares cicadas for eating at the insectarium in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP)
Zach Lemann, curator of animal collections for the Audubon Insectarium, prepares cicadas for eating at the insectarium in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP)
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Would You Like a Cicada Salad? The Monstrous Little Noisemakers Descend on a New Orleans Menu 

Zach Lemann, curator of animal collections for the Audubon Insectarium, prepares cicadas for eating at the insectarium in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP)
Zach Lemann, curator of animal collections for the Audubon Insectarium, prepares cicadas for eating at the insectarium in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP)

As the nation prepares for trillions of red-eyed bugs known as periodical cicadas to emerge, it's worth noting that they're not just annoying, noisy pests — if prepared properly, they can also be tasty to eat.

Blocks away from such French Quarter fine-dining stalwarts as Antoine's and Brennan's, the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans has long served up an array of alternative, insect-based treats at its “Bug Appetit” cafe overlooking the Mississippi River. “Cinnamon Bug Crunch,” chili-fried waxworms, and crispy, cajun-spiced crickets are among the menu items.

Periodical cicadas stay buried for years, until they surface and take over a landscape. Depending on the variety, the emergence happens every 13 or 17 years. This year two groups are expected to emerge soon, averaging around 1 million per acre over hundreds of millions of acres across parts of 16 states in the Midwest and South.

They emerge when the ground warms to 64 degrees (17.8 degrees Celsius), which is happening earlier than it used to because of climate change, entomologists said. The bugs are brown at first but darken as they mature.

Recently, Zack Lemann, the Insectarium's curator of animal collections, has been working up cicada dishes that may become part of the menu. He donned a chef's smock this week to show a couple of them off, including a green salad with apple, almonds, blueberry vinaigrette — and roasted cicadas. Fried cicada nymphs were dressed on top with a warm mixture of creole mustard and soy sauce.

“I do dragonflies in a similar manner,” Lemann said as he used tweezers to plop nymphs into a container of flour before cooking them in hot oil.

Depending on the type and the way they are prepared, cooked cicadas taste similar to toasted seeds or nuts. The Insectarium isn't the first to promote the idea of eating them. Over the years, they have appeared on a smattering of menus and in cookbooks, including titles like “Cicada-Licious” from the University of Maryland in 2004.

“Every culture has things that they love to eat and, maybe, things that are taboo or things that people just sort of, wrinkle their nose and frown their brow at,” Lemann said. “And there’s no reason to do that with insects when you look at the nutritional value, their quality on the plate, how they taste, the environmental benefits of harvesting insects instead of dealing with livestock.”

Lemann has been working to make sure the Bug Appetit cafe has legal clearance to serve wild-caught cicadas while he works on lining up sources for the bugs. He expects this spring's unusual emergence of two huge broods of cicadas to heighten interest in insects in general, and in the Insectarium — even though the affected area doesn't include southeast Louisiana.

“I can’t imagine, given the fact that periodical cicadas are national news, that we won’t have guests both local and from outside New Orleans, asking us about that,” said Lemann. “Which is another reason I hope to have enough to serve it at least a few times to people.”


Saudi Heritage Commission Celebrates World Heritage Day at Thee Ain Historic Village 

The festivities included captivating sound and light shows projected onto the facades of 58 heritage houses in the village, a folk performance, a heritage council, and the traditional preparation of Saudi coffee. (SPA)
The festivities included captivating sound and light shows projected onto the facades of 58 heritage houses in the village, a folk performance, a heritage council, and the traditional preparation of Saudi coffee. (SPA)
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Saudi Heritage Commission Celebrates World Heritage Day at Thee Ain Historic Village 

The festivities included captivating sound and light shows projected onto the facades of 58 heritage houses in the village, a folk performance, a heritage council, and the traditional preparation of Saudi coffee. (SPA)
The festivities included captivating sound and light shows projected onto the facades of 58 heritage houses in the village, a folk performance, a heritage council, and the traditional preparation of Saudi coffee. (SPA)

The Saudi Heritage Commission and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Al-Makhwah Governorate of the Al-Baha region celebrated on Thursday World Heritage Day at the Thee Ain Historic Village.

The event was attended by Al-Makhwah Governor Ghalab bin Ghaleb Abu Khashaym.

The festivities included captivating sound and light shows projected onto the facades of 58 heritage houses in the village, a folk performance, a heritage council, and the traditional preparation of Saudi coffee.

Thee Ain Historic Village is renowned for its authentic heritage, rich history, and breathtaking beauty. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the village dates back to the end of the 10th century.

It stands as one of the most significant heritage villages in the Kingdom, featuring 58 stone-built palaces situated atop a mountain of white marble. The village is home to a mosque where obligatory and Friday prayers are held.


Saudi Arabia: Centuries-old Defensive Moat, Fortification Wall Discovered in Historic Jeddah

Remains of a centuries-old defensive moat and fortification wall, which once encircled the city, were found in the northern part of Historic Jeddah. SPA
Remains of a centuries-old defensive moat and fortification wall, which once encircled the city, were found in the northern part of Historic Jeddah. SPA
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Saudi Arabia: Centuries-old Defensive Moat, Fortification Wall Discovered in Historic Jeddah

Remains of a centuries-old defensive moat and fortification wall, which once encircled the city, were found in the northern part of Historic Jeddah. SPA
Remains of a centuries-old defensive moat and fortification wall, which once encircled the city, were found in the northern part of Historic Jeddah. SPA

Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Historic District Program released the results of the archaeological excavations in Historic Jeddah as part of the first phase of the Archaeology Project.

In a recent archaeological discovery, remains of a centuries-old defensive moat and fortification wall, which once encircled the city, were found in the northern part of Historic Jeddah near Allegiance Square and east of Al-Kidwah Square.

According to historical sources, Jeddah was a fortified city as early as the late 10th - early 11th century AD. However, laboratory analysis indicates that the mentioned discoveries belong to a later phase of the fortification system, as they were likely constructed around the 18th-19th century AD.

By the middle of the 19th century AD, the moat had fallen out of use and was soon filled with sand. However, the fortification wall survived until 1947. Some parts of the moat's retaining wall have remained intact up to three meters in height.

Archaeological excavations also unearthed 19th-century AD European imported ceramics, demonstrating Jeddah's far-reaching trade connections. Moreover, a fragment of 9th-century AD pottery was discovered at Al-Qidwah Square.


Centuries-old Artworks Saved from Copenhagen's Stock Exchange Blaze

Charred remains stand on the Old Stock Exchange building, following a fire in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Ali Withers
Charred remains stand on the Old Stock Exchange building, following a fire in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Ali Withers
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Centuries-old Artworks Saved from Copenhagen's Stock Exchange Blaze

Charred remains stand on the Old Stock Exchange building, following a fire in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Ali Withers
Charred remains stand on the Old Stock Exchange building, following a fire in Copenhagen, Denmark, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Ali Withers

Art conservators are assessing the damage to centuries-old paintings recovered from a blaze that destroyed Copenhagen's Old Stock Exchange this week, the National Museum of Denmark said on Thursday.
As the blaze ripped through the 400-year-old Copenhagen landmark on Tuesday, passersby jumped off their bicycles to help firefighters, conservators and soldiers retrieve valuable paintings.
"It had to be fast," Nina Wajman, a curator at the National Museum of Denmark, told Reuters.
Conservators retrieved paintings from the half of the building that had not caught fire, while firefighters in smoke-helmets and soldiers of the Royal Life Guards recovered paintings from the part that was ablaze, hastily loading them on to trucks.
"They might not have done it in the way an art expert would, but that's minor, I think," said Wajman.
She entered the building to recover a portrait in oil of Christian IV, Denmark's 17th-century king who oversaw the construction of the building, which was originally built for trading in commodities.
"I wasn't sure that it had been rescued, so I went in to look for it and it was still there," Wajman said.
Some paintings were severely damaged by water or fire or because they were hastily torn off the walls.
Conservators are still inspecting the paintings, which were brought to a depot of the National Museum, and are trying to get an overview of the damage and what is missing.
"We had great focus on the valuables inside the building. But the problem was that I needed all my firefighters to contain the fire as long as we could," Jakob Vedsted Andersen, head of the fire department in greater Copenhagen, told Reuters.
"So we had to ask people for help to bring out the paintings and the sculptures," he said.
Employees at the nearby Danish Chamber of Commerce, including its CEO, helped to carry paintings as big as 3 meters wide into a section of the nearby Christiansborg palace.
Klavs Lockwood, a local, was at the site early on Tuesday.
"These paintings were very big and heavy, so I quickly offered my help," he said.
He said the painting he helped carry had been torn in several places.
"You could see it was taken off the wall in a hurry."