From Iceland — Art Love-In

Art Love-In

Published May 31, 2010

Villa Reykjavík to host galleries from all over Europe

Art Love-In
Photo by
Julia Staples

Villa Reykjavík to host galleries from all over Europe

In July, the art world will come to Reykjavík, and some musicians too. Commercial galleries from all over Europe are uprooting their shows and transplanting them around the city. The event, Villa Reykjavík, will be free to the public from July 9 to 31.

Karol Sienkiewicz, a co-organiser of the event was here in Reykjavík researching a guidebook, to come out in June, for visitors of the event. He says Villa Reykjavík is partly “about the topography. It’s about moving from one place to another, physically.” For the thirteen participating galleries, which hail from cities including Paris, Berlin, London, Warsaw, and Milan, packing up and shipping off to Reykjavík will be a major geographical move, although maybe not so much for i8, Iceland’s participating gallery.

About half the galleries have chosen the artists they will exhibit. These will be everything from performance art by William Hunt through London’s IBID Project gallery, to a bust of an eruption survivor in Martinique made entirely of volcanic ash, by Rafat Bujnowski of Warsaw’s Raster Gallery.
Not an art fair

As well as allowing the incoming art world to experience displacement and the new eyes that come with it, the event’s main organisers, Michal Kaczynski and Lukasz Gorczyca, wanted to show that commercial galleries can be just as artistically valid as public galleries. For example, Karol says, in Warsaw Raster gets very few local customers and makes their sales mainly at art fairs in other cities. That means that when they’re at home “they are making projects, they research art history, doing the stuff that the museums usually do,” says Karol.

Villa Reykjavík isn’t an art fair, the event’s promotional material emphasizes. Although art will certainly be for sale at the cluster of exhibitions, the main point of the show is art for art’s sake.

After they held the first version of this event in 2005, called Villa Warsaw, Reykjavík lured Michal and Lukasz for a second round. They fell in love with Reykjavík after several trips to the city. It was Reykjavík that inspired them to create the event.

But don’t expect this festival to become an annual thing. “It’s more spontaneous, I think. That’s the way that Raster Gallery operates. It was more like, Reykjavík is so much fun, it’s such a great place. Why not do something here?”

And indeed, Reykjavík responded with open arms. The Centre for Icelandic Art, Kling & Bang Gallery, and several other Icelandic institutions here have helped the project onto its feet.

A perfect audience

This year’s event will be quite different from Villa Warsaw, which was only a few days long and held in an abandoned house in the middle of Warsaw. Villa Reykjavík will be almost a month long, and will dot the city with galleries, rather than cramming them all into one space. This year’s event will also be much bigger. Opening week starts July 9 and will feature about two events per day, including live music, artists’ lectures, and performances.

The people of Reykjavík will also help make Villa Reykjavík a totally different animal from its predecessor. “The people are very creative,” Karol says of the people of Reykjavík. “Not just the artists, but all the people. They sing in choirs, they paint, they really attend architectural events, they really understand art, and that’s fantastic. I think that also that’s the perfect audience for our project.”

Though they want to make the most of holding their event in Reykjavík, Karol and the other organisers don’t want to “exoticize” the place to their visitors. There are several popular misconceptions about Reykjavík that Karol has personally confronted that he wants to make sure don’t deter visitors. He finds the conception that Icelanders are reserved is “totally not true. I find that the people are so friendly, open minded, easy-going that it’s so easy to make friends. I was so surprised, in a good way.”

This visit to Iceland also blew other preconceptions out of the water. On the weather, he says, “It’s not so cold.” About the prices? “It’s not that expensive”—a point prospective visitors will be happy to hear. “I was told the only thing I would afford here was the hot dogs, which actually are great.” Thankfully, visitors to Villa Reykjavík probably won’t have to live on hot dogs for the whole festival. Unless they want to.

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