From Iceland — Gallery Port's Christmas Market Is Back!

Gallery Port’s Christmas Market Is Back!

Published December 1, 2023

Gallery Port’s Christmas Market Is Back!
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Deck the halls with brand new artwork!

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

There are a few harbingers that Christmas has rolled into town once again. There’s the massive light-up Jólaköturinn prowling in Lækjartorg, the Olso tree taking up its position in Austurvöllur and the walls of Gallery Port being decked out with the works of 60+ artists, beckoning the more cultured holiday shopper to pop in and pick out a piece for their loved one – or themselves.

For the eighth year running, Gallery Port is hosting its Christmas market, Jólagestir Gallery Port . It runs this year from December 2, when a DJ will add some party vibes to the Laugavegur storefront, through to January 6, though hours will be sporadic between Þorláksmessa on Dec. 23 and the 12th of Christmas.

It’s all about friends, old and new

“It’s a harvest party,” says gallery co-owner Skarphéðinn Bergþóruson while sitting toward the back of the quirky space at Laugavegur 32. “So many people that have had shows with us come back with their pieces and you get to see what’s been going on in that year.”

“It’s a really fun time for us because it’s all of our friends displaying work,” adds co-owner Árni Már Erlingsson. “They come downtown during Christmas and come by – we have a lot of artists, most of our friends who have worked here for exhibitions.”

Photo by Art Bicnick

What will set this year apart is the lack of other locations hosting similar events. While Port was among the first to introduce an art market eight years ago, recent years have seen other downtown galleries trying to get in on the fun, with many of the same artists showing in multiple galleries. “It was not that fun,” Árni recalls of the past couple of years, “because the scene is so small. So we basically had four different spaces with the same artists and even the same work most of the time. I think it will be more fun for us to do this this year.”

Árni is also looking forward to the more relaxed programming of the Christmas market. Unlike the rest of the year when Port is strictly curated, the Christmas market gives them more freedom to work with younger artists or people who they weren’t able to work with during the year. “They can come here and participate in this group exhibition and maybe from that we will do some more work together in the future,” he says.

Events within an event

While Árni and Skarphéðinn were admittedly too busy to plan an opening party for this year’s market, there are unique happenings within the span of the month that will be an added incentive to pay Port a visit. One such event is acclaimed pianist Magnús Jóhann playing for the crowd one afternoon closer to Christmas — “that’s less of a special event and more for the atmo,” Árni insists.

On December 9, Port will host the launch party of the Þroskahjálp Almanac. Þroskahjálp is an organisation working with persons with intellectual disabilities, autism and related impairments. Every year, they fundraise through the sale of a calendar featuring the art works of their members and this year Port will be launching the calendar and selling some of the original art pieces featured in the calendar. Rather than mixing in the art from Þroskahjálp throughout the duration of the Christmas market, holding a separate event within the event aims to ensure the organisation gets the most out of it.

“We otherwise don’t have space for events during the market,” says Árni. “There’s always plenty of people coming in and they are here for one purpose, and that’s looking at and buying art.”

So intent are the masses on doing just that, that last Þorláksmessa (Dec. 23) – when Icelanders take to Laugavegur en masse to buy last-minute gifts, greet their neighbours and soak up the holiday spirit – the paint chipped off the floors at Port from the constant traffic of sleet and sand covered boots.

Thinking of buying?

While there’s been a lot of talk in recent years about your people investing in art, Árni warns against starting a collection with investing front of mind.

“We need to treat it more for what it is, and that’s part of our culture, part of the timeline,” Árni says. “Of course some (art pieces are) good investments, but that will never be interesting for you to hold on to pieces only to be good investments.

“When I started collecting, I wanted to have my friends on my walls, so most of the works I have are from them. Of course, I have one or two pieces from some people I look up to, but most of them are friends that I want to have around when I get older. I want to see some kind of history of what we have done with all these people. I also tell people they’d have to have an investment piece for at least 20 years – are you always going to have some boring work just because you can get some money or do you want to have something that you relate to and enjoy having in your home?”

The end of an era/The start of something new

This year’s Christmas market will be the last that Port will host on Laugavegur. As soon as the market closes in January, Skarphéðinn and Árni will be packing up shop and moving to new digs on Kirkjusandur, beside the Iceland University of the Arts.

Just as I begin to enquire about whether they’re concerned about losing the foot-traffic of the city’s main drag, a friend walks in, silently strolls to the back of the gallery where we’re sitting, to pat Skarphéðinn on the head and then walk back out the way he came.

“We’ll get less of these people just coming in and stroking us,” Skarphéðinn jokes. “We will bring the energy with us to the new location, though. With the old Port, it was tiny, it was hidden, but we created energy and we took that energy here. People will come with us.”

“We raised a lot of following and a trusted group of clientele and artists that we work with,” Árni says. “And I think we’ll just take that with us.”

Visit Gallery Port’s Christmas market starting Saturday, December 2 at 15:00. New works will be cycled into the mix throughout the month, so go back often to find the piece you love.

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