Borgarbókasafnið (The City Library) on Tryggvagata is home to a unique phenomenon in Iceland’s culture scene: on the ground floor, you can find Artótek, an art rental area for the average consumer. That’s right, you can go there, pick out a piece of art, ranging from sculptures to paintings to graphic artwork, pay a monthly rent and hang it above your fireplace.
The concept is modelled after an artotek in the City Library of Helsinki, Finland. The Icelandic artotek is very user-friendly; the only thing the consumer needs to do is put on a pair of gloves before browsing through the roughly 200 art pieces on display. Most people should be able to find something that strikes their fancy in the Artótek collection. Gigantic shoe sculptures, jigsaw puzzles with miniature cows resting on top, watercolour paintings, decorated bowls, oil on canvas – naked ladies seemingly one of the more popular subjects – are only a fraction of what the Artótek has to offer. A two-year experimental project, a collaboration between the Samband Íslenskra Myndlistamanna (The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists) and the City Library, we met with the project manager on the one-year anniversary.
“We wanted to expand the range of art offered to the public,” Katrín Guðmundsdóttir, the project manager, told us. “We also offer our services to companies, as well as individuals.”
In the year that Artótek has been open to the public, 105 pieces have been rented out. To begin with, all the artists showcased had to be members of SÍM. It is no longer a prerequisite, however, as the artists now on display at the Artótek only need to hold a degree in visual arts from an accredited university. Some of the artists currently displayed are well-known and well-respected, some are up-and-coming.
Surprisingly enough, most of the Artótek’s clients are out to buy art, not rent it.
“People are a bit shy when it comes to buying art,” librarian Erla Kristín Jónasdóttir told the Grapevine.
The Artótek should take the edge off it. It gives the potential buyer the opportunity to rent an art piece for a month up to three years, for as little as 1000 ISK per month. That way, the buyer can fit the piece to their home and let it grow on them before making the decision of whether or not to go through with the sale. As the pieces at Artótek cost up to 325,000 ISK, it’s a decision most people would need to think through. This place gives people time to make up their minds.
Artótek, Borgarbókasafnið, Tryggvagata 15, 101 Reykjavík. Phone: 563-1717.