From Iceland — More Than Minimalism & Wood: ‘Now Nordic’ Redefines Design Notions

More Than Minimalism & Wood: ‘Now Nordic’ Redefines Design Notions

Published March 22, 2019

More Than Minimalism & Wood: ‘Now Nordic’ Redefines Design Notions
Aliya Uteuova
Photo by
Courtesy of Búi Bjartmar Aðalsteinsson

In recent years, millennial trendsetters have gushed over everything Nordic on social media. Bookstores have found a niche of selling Nordic design and style books. This begs the question: What makes Nordic design so inviting?

The origins

‘Now Nordic’ seeks to answer that query. The exhibition is a collaborative effort that explores the designs of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic design movement originally saw its boom in the 1950s, when it was seen as the epitome of simplicity, minimalism and functionality. But the exhibit, which was showcased in London before coming to Iceland, presents Nordic design as something more than minimal.

“Nordic design is not just functional pieces made of wood,” says Kristian Snorre Andersen, who has been at the helm of ‘Now Nordic’ since its inception in 2017. “The pieces we present are far from simplistic. They are full of stories, ideas and different kinds of materials.”

Overarching themes

The project began as an investigation into Nordic design and culture. “We wanted local eyes on this subject,” says Kristian. To that end, five curators from each Nordic country were selected to choose designers and craftsmen who they believe define the scene of the nations they represent. Hlín Helga Guðlaugsdóttir and María Kristín Jónsdóttir curated the Icelandic section.

“We made this puzzle to see if there are any similarities and differences.”

The Icelandic designers participating in the exhibition are Tinna Gunnarsdóttir, Magnús Ingvar Ágústsson, Hugdetta with 1+1+1, Ragna Ragnarsdóttir, Brynjar Sigurðarson, Katrín Ólína, Studio Hanna Whitehead, and Garðar Eyjólfsson.

A new conclusion

The layout of the exhibition is formatted to allow people to stroll through all five Nordic design sections and form their own conclusions on Nordic design culture. “We didn’t try to come up with an answer to what is characterized by the Nordic design scene,” Kristian explains. He describes this process as akin to putting together a puzzle, with one piece representing Icelandic design, another representing Danish design, and so on. “We made this puzzle to see if there are any similarities and differences.”

The overarching theme across all five nations is visible in their sustainable approach to design, experimentation with different materials and shared history.

Reinventing Nordic style

“We realised that Nordic design is not just about aesthetics, materials and techniques applied by each designer,” says Kristian. “It’s about something more, such as societal values. In each of the five communities, there is a very strong collaborative approach, which reflects how we are used to working with others.”

At the same time, the exhibition reflects each country’s individual identity, which has adapted with the times. The designers showcased in ‘Now Nordic’ are clearly moving away from the historic Nordic style of the 1950s.

“A number of people are making new objects which do not fit into what we normally see as the Nordic design,” Kristian says. “Redefinition is very much what we hope to achieve.”

‘Now Nordic’ will be at Reykjavík Art Museum – Hafnarhús until May 26th, 2019. 

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