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Art Lover's Guide to Reykjavik: The 10 Best Galleries & Spaces
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Art Lover's Guide to Reykjavik: The 10 Best Galleries & Spaces

Picture of Helen Armitage
Updated: 25 September 2016
Over the past decade, Iceland’s contemporary art scene has thrived with its capital Reykjavik serving as the main hub for much of the country’s art community. From large cultural institutions to smaller, edgier art galleries, we’ve updated our guide to the top ten best contemporary art spaces in Reykjavik.
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ASÍ Art Museum

Housed in a charming 1930s building designed by Icelandic sculptors Ásmundur Sveinsson and Gunnfríður Jónsdóttir, ASÍ Art Museum was established in 1961 when entrepreneur, book publisher and arts patron Ragnar Jónsson donated over 100 artworks to the gallery by some of Iceland’s most important artists, like abstract expressionist Nína Tryggvadóttir and painter Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval, in a mission to bring art to the masses. Today ASÍ Art Museum is dedicated to displaying its collection of 20th century art alongside championing contemporary art by national and international artists and has recently played host to a multi-national exhibition featuring works by four diverse artists from Iceland, Japan and the US, as part of the 2014 Reykjavik Art Festival.

ASÍ Art Museum, Freyjugata 41, Reykjavik, Iceland,+354 511 5353

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One of the Reykjavik’s most recent additions, Týsgallerí first opened its doors in the autumn of 2013 in the capital’s beautiful Old Town, Þingholt, and focuses on the exhibition of contemporary art produced by locally based artists. Týsgallerí features a program of month-long solo shows by both established and up-and-coming talents, which has recently included exhibitions by the internationally acclaimed artist Steingrimur Eyfjord and abstract painter Marta María Jónsdóttir. Týsgallerí also has works available for sale that include the vividly colorful paintings and sculptures of Davið Örn Halldórsson and sculpture and installation artist Kristin Reynisdottir.

Týsgallerí, Tysgata 3, Reykjavik, Iceland,+354 571 0380

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Gallerí Fold

Iceland’s leading exhibition and auction house, Gallerí Fold was founded in 1990 and is the main port of call in the country for seeing and purchasing the work of over 60 of the most talented Icelandic artists, including painter Dadi Guðbjörnsson and illustrator Unna Ýrr Helgadóttir. Residing in a sizable building that encompasses five exhibition spaces, Gallerí Fold regularly hosts commercial and non-commercial shows which feature the work of international artists like Norwegian landscape photographer Rune Werner Molnes and British portrait artist Nikhil Nathan Kirsh. Other notable names that have exhibited at the gallery include pop art legend Andy Warhol and Iceland’s own Halldór Pétursson.

Gallerí Fold, Raudararstigur 14-16, Reykjavik, Iceland,+354 551 0400

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Gallery i8

With its excellent international reputation gained from regular participation in art fairs, including Switzerland’s Art Basel and The Armoury Show in New York City, and loyal following at home, Gallery i8 is one of the city’s most popular and ambitious art venues. Founded in 1995, the gallery represents a diverse body of both Icelandic and international contemporary artists such as Reykjavik-born performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson and German conceptual artist Karin Sander. Recent exhibitions at Gallery i8 have included British contemporary artist Peter Liversidge and Icelandic multimedia artist Hrafnkell Sigurðsson’s latest photographic series, Revelation.

Gallery i8, Klapparstigur 33, Reykjavik, Iceland, +354 551 3666

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Kling & Bang

Established in 2003 by a group of 10 artists from different backgrounds, the artist-led gallery Kling & Bang’s mission is to promote the works of emerging and established artists who challenge creative thinking. A major player in Reykjavik’s creative scene, Kling & Bang regularly collaborates with external curators and galleries on projects like the Hamburg-based innovative art group Friends and Lovers in Underground, which co-curated an exhibition featuring a number of German artists. Kling & Bang has also recently exhibited works by home-grown talents including Reykjavik-based artists Emma Heiðarsdóttir and Margrét Helga Sesseljudóttir.

Kling & Bang, Hverfisgata 42, Reykjavik, Iceland,+354 696 2209

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Since its launch in the summer of 2012 Kunstschlager, an artist’s initiative formerly based in central Reykjavik, has presented over 30 exhibitions featuring the works of both Icelandic and international artists working across a diverse range of styles and mediums. Now located within the Reykjavik Art Museum’s HAFNARHÚS gallery, Kunstschlager is undergoing some exciting changes. Keep an eye on their website for updates on their future plans. This gallery focuses on the promotion and nurturing of young, emerging contemporary artists and non-mainstream artists. Recent exhibitions at Kunstschlager have seen works by Icelandic mixed-media artist Jóna Hlíf Halldórsdóttir and up-and-coming British performance artist Paul Kindersley.

Hafnarhús, Tryggvagata, Reykjavík, Iceland

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The Living Art Museum

The Living Art Museum is a non-profit and artist-led organization that was established in 1978 by a diverse group of local artists as a means of challenging the dominance of the National Gallery of Iceland during the 1970s and 1980s. By focusing on art that explores different modes of production and display in order to challenge how audiences and art interact, The Living Art Museum stretches beyond traditional exhibition formats by including live performance, poetry readings and film screenings. The collection features over 2000 donated works by Icelandic and international artists such as sound poet and sculptor Magnús Pálsson and American artist Matthew Barney.

The Living Art Museum, Skulagata 28, Reykjavik, Iceland,+354 551 4350

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The Nordic House

Iceland’s iconic Nordic House, designed by Finnish modernist architect Alvar Aalto, opened in 1968 with the goal of establishing cultural connections between Iceland and other countries within the Nordic region. Today it plays host to a number of important cultural events including the Reykjavik International Film Festival. Home to an exhibition space, the Nordic House regularly presents shows by an eclectic range of artists from Swedish graffiti artist Jonathan Josefsson to a ceramics-based exhibition featuring the work of female Finnish and Icelandic artists including Päivi Takala and Guðný Hafsteinsdóttir. The Nordic House is also home to the critically acclaimed Restaurant Dill and a small shop selling Nordic design and food products.

The Nordic House, Sturlugata 5, Reykjavik, Iceland,+354 551 7030

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Located in downtown Reykjavik in the basement level space of design store Hrím Hönnunarhús, Þoka was opened in the spring of 2012 by gallery director and curator Aldis Snorradottir and, in accordance with her passion for fostering emergent talent, the gallery concentrates on exhibiting new works of art by young, up-and-coming artists. While Þoka shows art in a wide range of mediums including sculpture, video and experimental painting, it does put an emphasis on works based on a strong concept and has hosted exhibitions that include Icelandic artist Hulda Rós Guðnadóttír’s mixed-media installation Keep Frozen part two, part of a project examining childhood memories of harbor culture.

Þoka, Laugavegur 25, Reykjavik, Iceland, +354 615 1834

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Reykjavik Museum of Photography

Founded in 1981, the Reykjavik Museum of Photography is part of the Reykjavik City Museum and, as its name suggests, is dedicated to the exhibition of Icelandic and international photography. As the only independent photography museum in the country, the Reykjavik Museum of Photography aims to be an innovative leader in its field and exhibits work by both professional and amateur photographers. In addition to more artistic works, the museum includes pieces like family snaps, press photos and advertising shots that act as social and cultural artifacts. Alongside its vast collection of around 5 million photographs produced between 1870 and 2002, the museum also exhibits shows by the likes of American documentary photographer Lauren Greenfield.

Reykjavik Museum of Photography, Grófarhús, Tryggvagata 15, Reykajvik, Iceland, +354 411 6390