Found In Transition: Café Bismút Goes From Serving Caffeine To Culture

Found In Transition: Café Bismút Goes From Serving Caffeine To Culture

Found In Transition: Café Bismút Goes From Serving Caffeine To Culture

Published June 7, 2019

Photos by
Berglind Jóna Hlynsdóttir

Coffee lovers are out of luck, but art lovers are in the green, as one of Reykjavík’s favorite cafés has become an art gallery and events space. This quirky corner café had become a daily haunt for many, with their friendly service and excellent coffee—indeed, it was awarded for having the Best Coffee in our Best of Reykjavík magazine earlier this year. Caffeine aside, they also hosted an array of art exhibitions in the two years since opening, and will now turn their core focus to events, parties, design exhibitions and the visual arts.

Founded by artists Katla Rós Völudóttir, Ragnar Már Nikulásson and Ninja Sif Jónínudóttir—later joined by Ben Boorman—Bismút is located on the corner of Hverfisgata and Vitastígur in a beautiful, bright space, with minimalist details and big windows that allow for after-hours viewing. In recent years, rising rents have led to a retreat of artist run space, with a few exceptions like Harbinger, Gallery Port and Ekkisens. Reykjavík, without question, needs more spaces for young and emerging artists to exhibit. The new iteration of Bismút presents an exciting new option with just the right properties to fill the gap.

Saga, Joey, Merry and more

One of the first events since the transition was the launch party for Joey Christ’s album ‘Joey 2,’ and there’s lots more in the pipeline. In the works are shows by young photographer Svanhildur Gréta Kristjánsdóttir, and Saga Sigurðardóttir, a renowned fashion photographer who has recently been experimenting with fine arts.

“A guy came in and said ‘yeah, I’ll take all of this’ and bought all 25 images.”

There’s also an exhibition planned with James Merry—an embroidery artist from the UK, now based in Iceland. He is Björk’s art director, and hand-makes the masks she’s worn onstage in recent years. He recently experienced a swell of interest in his individual practise, in which he embroiders subtle elements from nature onto vintage brand name sports sweaters. Another planned event in this varied programme will happen on ReykjavíkCulture Night when the Grazie! Press—run by Bobby Breiðholt and Helga Dögg Ólafsdóttir—will collaborate with Þórsteinn Sigurðsson make a large-scale exhibition and magazine launch, which will stay open as a shop for some time after.

Take all of this

“I would like to mix these established artists with young up and coming people. Its not exclusive … if you have good concept we can work together,” says Ben. “One of the most successful shows I did here was with Anna Maggý—she did really well in this space. Her show was visually arresting. When it was lit up at night, one guy passed by… he just came in and said “yeah, I’ll take all of this,” and bought all 25 images.”

After the exhibition openings, there will also be other events happening at the same time. “It’s all about keeping the place alive,” says Ben.

So if you need a place for your record launch, somewhere to host your private party, where to show and sell your designer beach towels or set up a pop-up store, Bismút is your new go-to. “You’re very welcome to have your wedding here, of course!” laughs Ben. “Bring your own priest.”

Visit Bismút at Hverfisgata 82, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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