When you enter the space, it feels a little bit like you were dropped in a shoebox with the intent of letting you take a peek into the art world. And what a peek it is. The gallery is a single room with a huge window facing towards the main street of town, has nothing to hide and does not try to.
Its name—Outvert Art Space (Gallerí Úthverfa)—is a reference to a house called Slunkaríki that the artist Sólon Guðmundsson built in Ísafjörður more than a century ago. Sólon thought that it was such a shame that people were not able to see the beautiful interior of houses—so he built a house inside out. The wallpaper was facing the street, and corrugated iron covered the walls of the living room.
“We felt it was a good name for our space because we have this big window and when you walk past the gallery, you see inside the space very well,” says the space’s curator, Gunnar Jónsson. “It’s not closed—it’s a little bit inside out actually. And for example, during the darkest part of the year, we project exhibitions on the window of the gallery.”
Westfjords a strong Influence
Gunnar and Elísabet Gunnarsdóttir started the gallery in 2013, soon after Gunnar moved back to Ísafjörður where he studied at the Icelandic University of the Arts. “The intention is not to create a window into what is happening in the art scene in Reykjavík,” he says. “You have to look everywhere for things that are happening. Our exhibitions rotate every six weeks and we show the work of both Icelandic and foreign artists, but right now we are focusing mostly on contemporary Icelandic art.”
He is an artist himself, and has a studio in the same building as Outvert Art Space. Gunnar says that living in the Westfjords influences his work a lot. “Often when you are outside the chaos of a city, when you’re not with all your friends at the bar, meeting the same people at art openings and sharing co-working space with the same people, then things become different.”
The gallery gives Gunnar a great inspiration and he says that he has a great dialogue with people that show there, which also allows him to follow their work. “That part is a great source of inspiration along with the things I see and witness around here in the area.”
No joke being an artist
Gunnar says he does not look upon himself as some kind of saviour for the art scene in Ísafjörður. “Nobody asked me to do this,” he says. “I did so because I want to stay in touch with the art scene and experience art continuously.
You cannot look at this as some society program that brings the art to the people. This would not be fair to the art and it would become too much of a burden for me.”
At the end of our talk, I ask Gunnar if he can share any memorable experience or funny story from his time at Outvert Art Space. He replies in a serious and sarcastic way: “Artists are very serious, it’s no joke being one!”
“Virtual Space” (Sýndarrými) by Freyja Eilíf ran until April 29th. “Spýtu bregður” by Unndór Egill Jónsson opens on May 19th. Follow the gallery online here.