Reykjavik Art Museum is the largest visual art institution in Iceland
Reykjavik Art Museum is situated at three different locations in the city of Rekjavik: the Kjarvalsstadir exhibition hall at Miklatún, Hafnarhus, located in downtown Reykjavik, and the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum and Park at Sigtún.
The Museum possesses the largest art collection in Iceland and the most voluminous gallery space to be found amongst the country’s galleries. In more than 3000 square meters of gallery space over twenty exhibitions are run every year, ranging from extensive exhibitions from the museum‘s collection to installations of contemporary art by young, international artists.
The Museum offers a variety of events all year round where art is closely examined from different angles and with different emphasis. Extensive family programmes as well as guided tours for students of all levels are cultivated.
In addition, the museum takes active part in ambitious cooperative projects and festivals in the field of music, film, design, dance, drama and literature.
The Museum is in charge of the city‘s art collection while Reykjavik city is responsible for the management and financing of the museum.
Reykjavik Art Museum consists of five separate art properties: a general art collection of Reykjavik city (including outdoor works in Reykjavik), an Erró collection, a Kjarval collection, the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculputure Museum and a collection of the architecture department and now on the Internet.
Please follow this link to see online the Reykjavik Art Museum collection. Artwork from the museum is also on display in public buildings and in open areas throughout the city.
On this new webpage can you access pictures and information about artworks by Icelandic artists from 1900 to 2013. You can also view street maps with information about Outdoor sculptures in city of Reykjavik. Also many art historians have written information about selected artworks of the page.
The new website is partly in collaboration with DCA (digital reproduction of contemporary art) of the EU project which aims to make Europe’s cultural heritage accessible on the web. See Europeana.eu.
Hafnarhús in Reykjavik city
Hafnarhús (Harbour House) is the most recent addition to the locations of Reykjavik Art Museum and was occupied after a complete renovation in April 2000. The building had its former function as the harbour’s warehouse and during its renovation, care was taken to preserve as much as possible of the building’s original architecture.
The museum comprises six galleries, the courtyard and a multi-purpose room where ongoing events of a wide variety take place, ranging from rock concerts to poetry reading.
Hafnarhús exhibits works from the Erró collection at all times. The Icelandic pop-artist Erró (1932) who has lived and worked in Paris for decades has donated a tremendous collection of his invaluable works and is still adding to the collection.
Erró the artist
Guðmundur Guðmundsson (b. 1932), better known as Erró, is without a doubt the best known contemporary artist of Iceland.
After studying in Iceland, at the age of 20 he was admitted to the Oslo Academy of Fine Art, Norway. In 1954 he studied at the Florence Academy of Art and later in Ravenna, Italy, where he focussed on mosaic technique.
In 1958 he moved to Paris, where was accepted by the local Surrealists with open arms.
In 1963, Erró travelled for the first time to New York and came into contact with Pop Art, which was coming into vogue at the time.
For the next few years he worked in different media, such as performance art and experimental cinema, in addition to painting.
He quickly became one of the pioneers of Pop Art and European narrative figuration. Erró has lived in Paris for more than fifty years; he usually spends part of the winter in Thailand and in summer he stays at his house in Formentera, Spain.
In 1989 Erró gave the City of Reykjavík a large collection of his works, a total of about 2,000 items, including paintings, watercolours, graphic art, sculptures, collages and other works spanning the artist’s entire career from his youth. In addition to the art works, Erró gave the city an extensive collection of private correspondence and other documents relevant to his artistic career. These rich sources are of great value for all research on the artist Erró and his time.
The collection has grown steadily over the years; Erró has continued to add to the gift and in addition works have been purchased for the collection, which now numbers about 4,000 works of art.
Watch video of Hafnarhús (Harbour House) – Courtesy Reykjavik Art Museum
Kjarvalsstaðir in Reykjavik city
Kjarvalsstaðir (opened 1973) is named after one of the most beloved painters of the nation, Jóhannes S. Kjarval.
His works form a large part of the collection of Reykjavik Art Museum and can be found there at all times. Kjarval was a living legend, a romantic bohem who captured the beauty and mystique of the land which he so intimately knew.
The unique building of Kjarvalsstaðir is surrounded by garden of Klambratún and is located a short distance from downtown Reykjavík. The building is the first of its kind in Iceland to be specifically designed for visual art exhibitions.
In addition to exhibitions of Kjarval’s works, temporary exhibitions of Icelandic and international art are featured as well as architecture and design with emphasis on works of the twentieth century.
Kjarval the artist
Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval (1885–1972) has a unique place in Icelandic cultural history, as one of the nation’s most beloved artists of all time. He was a legend in his own lifetime, and in the eyes of many he was the archetypal romantic bohemian artist.
He had his roots in traditional Icelandic farming society, and his life and art were inextricably entwined with the nation’s cultural renaissance in the early 20th century.
He is best known for his interpretation of nature, and especially the mystical visual world manifested in his art.
In Kjarval’s long artistic career, his basic vision remained the same – that nature is alive – although the emphases of his work evolved and changed over the years.
Kjarval donated some of his works and personal effects to the city of Reykjavík in 1968. The gift comprised mainly drawings and sketches. A part of his gift was exhibited for the first time at the opening of the Kjarvalsstaðir gallery in 1973. The collection has grown steadily over the years, both through purchases and invaluable donations from private individuals.
Kjarvalsstaðir houses a permanent exhibition of Kjarval’s works, which provides a general introduction to his work and artistic career.
Watch video of Kjarvalsstaðir – Courtesy Reykjavik Art Museum
Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum in Reykjavik city
The Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum is dedicated to the sculptures and drawings of Ásmundur Sveinsson.
The works to be seen there span Ásmundur’s entire career and they are featured thematically as well as collectively with works of other artists. Ásmundur was one of Iceland’s pioneers in the art of sculpture and his works are located both outdoors and indoors throughout the country.
Ásmundur’s sculptures are exhibited inside as well as outside the museum, which is the artist’s former home and studio. Ásmundur designed and built the house mostly by himself in the years 1942 to 1950.
In the architecture he plays with a theme from the Arab culture along with a Mediterranean influence. A sculpture garden surrounding the museum with works by the artist stays open to the public all year round.
Ásmundur Sveinsson the artist
Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893–1982) was one of the pioneers of Icelandic sculpture. In his early days his pieces invariably met with opposition and fierce criticism but over the years they have established themselves as one of the manifestations of the Icelandic narrative tradition, society and nature in the 20th century.
Ásgrímur studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm under the guidance of sculptor Carl Milles. In the late 1920s he lived in Paris for three years and travelled around Italy and Greece. That time had no less effect on him than his student years in Stockholm.
Ásmundur remained faithful all his life to the principle that art was relevant to the people and belonged with the masses. He was called the “folk poet” of visual art, and without a doubt that ideal arose from his philosophy no less than from the tradition of sculpture.
Many of his pieces were conceived as a part of public space, an integral part of the surroundings, or were developed as design and craft works.
Ásmundur bequeathed his works and his home/studio to the City of Reykjavík at his death, and the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum in Sigtún was formally opened in the spring of 1983.
The collection spans his entire artistic career and shows how his work evolved and changed over his long life.
A large number of Ásmundur’s works can also been seen in public spaces in Reykjavík.
In the garden of the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum there are regular exhibitions of Ásmundur’s works and those of other artists. A number of the artist’s works are on display in the Sculpture Garden, either enlarged, or specifically conceived as outdoor pieces.
Watch video of the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum – Courtesy Reykjavik Art Museum