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ARTisSpectrum | Volume 29 | artisspectrum.com
Reykjavik, Iceland
by Bui Kristjansson
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, which is a sparsely populated country inhabited only along the coast, that thrives on fishing,
tourism, aluminium and software. An active volcanic island situated on the Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is dominated by mountains.
The inland part of the country is a plateau region, and Iceland is the largest wilderness in Europe. One of Iceland’s hallmarks
is clean air and clear water. Icelandic art has always been heavily influenced by the spectacular landscape that ice and fire has
shaped through the ages.
Iceland was first settled by Vikings around 800 AC from the British Islands and Scandinavia. Iceland is in many ways different
from Europe in terms of culture and tradition. Icelanders are migrants who settled here in a new country, and, being settlers,
having a broad perspective and openness to new ideas was necessary. Icelanders have a powerful tradition of travelling and
studying abroad. Because of the small population, Icelanders must be more extrovert than introvert in order to survive. This
has had a major influence on art in Iceland post World War II. The powerful old landscape painting tradition had to give in
to a strong group of abstract painters, who were strongly influenced by the French abstract movement and it lasted until the
1960’s. In the 1970’s, a large number of Icelandic artists studied in the Netherlands and were influenced by the Conceptual Art
Movement. This movement had deep effects on the art scene in Iceland and still has a large impact today. But despite these
influences, the powerful landscape tradition of the past did evolve in an extraordinary way within a small group of artists, and
it is something that all art lovers who come to Reykjavik must see. I encourage every visitor to go to museums and galleries to
see this Icelandic art, which is unique in many ways.
It is not easy to access Icelandic artists, as studios are somewhat scattered around the city of Reykjavik, but there are some
strong galleries that can help one to access the artists. The artists are more than willing to show their studios and are open to
receiving visitors. The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists opens all galleries in November, giving art enthusiasts an oppor-
tunity to visit artists’ studios. The art district of ​Reykjavik is all within walking distance of the old town center and the harbor.
In that area there are also many cafes and restaurants.
There are several facilities made available for rent to foreign artists by The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists. There are also
many private spaces all around the countryside that one can rent to be surrounded by breathtaking scenery.
Reykjavik attracts tourists and artists from all over the world because of its nature and the power of the pure northern air.
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