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Icelandic Art Powers Up: BERG Contemporary Has International Ambitions

Icelandic Art Powers Up: BERG Contemporary Has International Ambitions

Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published January 3, 2018

BERG Contemporary sits discreetly on Klapparstígur, just metres away from the bustle of pedestrians and traffic of Hverfisgata. Located in a multi-floored building that was once a glass factory, it holds several crisp, spacious, immaculately maintained gallery rooms and offices, and a year-round exhibition programme.

The soft-spoken and mild mannered owner and director of the gallery is Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir, an artist, teacher, and curator with several decades of experience. The project is, for her, a labour of love that’s been long in the making. “I studied in Iceland, Mexico and Denmark,” says Ingibjörg. “I’ve taught here at the Icelandic College of Arts & Crafts, and later at the Icelandic Academy of Arts when that started around the year 2000. I’ve curated shows at the Reykjavík Art Museum, and abroad, and collected art for a long time. So running a gallery was the last thing I wanted to try. It was a thread I needed to pull at.”

Surprising space

The gallery opened in summer 2016 after a long period of planning, and a search for the right space. Today, BERG Contemporary represents eleven artists, from Iceland and abroad. “I like the idea that when artists make an exhibition for this gallery, they make something they wouldn’t have if the gallery wasn’t here,” says Ingibjörg. “I know from curating and hanging my own shows that the space is very important. It changes things. I’ve always been excited, when we start to mount an exhibition, about how it will turn out. It always surprises me.”

Despite this long-held wish, Ingibjörg didn’t embark on the journey lightly. “I wanted to be sure it was something I really wanted to do, because it’s a big commitment to the artists and collectors,” she says. “It’s not something you just give up.”

Opening doors

The role of gallerist has many facets, from programming the space and organising the business to networking, curating, promoting and mentoring. ”I want to be encouraging, inspiring and supportive, helping artists along and trying to open doors for them,” says Ingibjörg. “As I teacher I wasn’t very dominant—it was more about having conversations, and helping artists to find the things inside them. The things that are already there.”

“And of course, it’s about communicating with the outside art world, to create opportunities for exhibitions and things like that,” she continues. “I’ve been an artist myself, so I know what it means to have that kind of support.”

International flavour

BERG has quickly become a go-to for contemporary art in Reykjavík, hosting lauded exhibitions by, amongst others, Finnbogi Pétursson, Dodda Maggý and Haraldur Jónsson, and taking steps out into the world at international art fairs. But the space is still evolving, with a video projection space and a residency apartment planned in 2018.

“It’s healthy for the community of artists to have people visiting from abroad. It enriches the cultural life here.”

“We’re preparing an apartment here so we can have artists in residence,” says Ingibjörg. “It’s healthy for the community of artists here to have people visiting from abroad. I don’t think there are borders in art. There are many interesting Icelandic artists of course, but we have also artists from Japan, the USA, Germany, and other countries. I think it enriches the cultural life here, and it allows bridges to be built and connections to be made.”

A show by Ingunn Fjóla Ingþórsdóttir and Þórdís Jóhannesdóttir will open at BERG on January 12th. Follow BERG on Facebook here


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