I appreciate a good statue more than most people. This may be because of my background as a stonemason. I have more than a rudimentary understanding of what it takes to reveal the form that resides within a block of stone, or to transform a shapeless piece of metal into something recognisable. And while I do not claim any expertise on the aesthetics, I believe my statue fetish makes me fully qualified to give you a reasoned list of three noteworthy statues in Reykjavík.
Artist: Hulda Hákon
While this is strictly not a statue, but rather a sculpture, 20 Logar is an artwork worth pointing out. The name translates to 20 Flames, with each flame repre-senting a member state of NATO. The sculpture was commissioned to artist Hulda Hákon and revealed in 2002 to commemorate the meeting of the 20 foreign ministers of the NATO states. Since its unveiling, it has repeatedly been targeted to protest NATO’s military efforts around the world. It has been covered in red paint on more than one occasion, and currently consists of a mere 18 flames, as two have gone missing over the years, most likely at the hands of anti-NATO enthusiasts, or possibly Communists. While other countries have many memorials dedicated to various war efforts, Icelanders have shown little tolerance for this little reminder of our involvement in NATO.
Artist: Helgi Gíslason
Dedicated to Iceland’s first and most successful professional football player, Albert Guðmundsson, who played with powerhouses such as Arsenal, Glasgow Rangers and AC Milan, to name but a few, during a particularly industrious career. Albert would later move on to politics, but that’s probably another statue waiting to happen. This is a noteworthy statue for the simple fact that it may be the most ugly statue in Reykjavík. Statues of athletes often strike a posing figure. Manchester United’s “Holy Trinity” of Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, outside their stadium is a good example. Or the graceful rendition of Michael Jordan outside Chicago Stadium. Albert Guðmundsson, however, strikes an awkward pose, as if leaning into the bar counter in an effort to swoon a bypassing lady of notice. The overall effect is less than gracious, and does little to do justice to this former great player.
Artist Magnús Tómasson
The Unknown Bureaucrat is a popular favourite, as it manages to be both humorous and provocative, while truthfully depicting something that most everyone can relate to, the trivial existence of the working bee. The block of rock is a perfect metaphor for how everyday life crushes down on us, while at the same time depicting the narrative of the faceless official who is only a cog in the wheel, and never a person to most of us. Even the location is a thoughtful comment on the trivial existence of the Unknown Bureaucrat, in a closed off back alley. You really have to make an effort to find him, sealed off from any relevance, and the rest of the world in his isolated little corner of the universe.