What You Probably Don't Know About This Small Island's Creative Impact In the World

Reykjavik Street Art, Iceland | © Forbes Johnston/Flickr
Reykjavik Street Art, Iceland | © Forbes Johnston/Flickr | Reykjavik Street Art, Iceland | © Forbes Johnston/Flickr
Photo of Camille Buckley
30 October 2017

For such a small population—around 330,000 inhabitants—Iceland’s creative impact on the world has had a surprisingly profound influence; considering how isolated the country is both culturally and geographically, this makes creativity an even more important cultivation. In fact, creative industries in Iceland employ a larger share than both the fishing and agricultural industries combined, and, in turn, generates a larger percentage of the GDP.

Prolific music scene

Icelandic musicians like Björk, Of Monsters and Men, and Sigur Rós have contributed to the Icelandic music scene’s place on the world stage. They have also perhaps contributed to a stereotype of Icelandic music that does not represent the whole music scene. Since Iceland does not have a strong pop-music genre, the sheer diversity of talents contributes to many different genres including hip-hop, metal, and indie rock is inspiring in itself. With so many music festivals offered on the island each year that attract international acts and visitors, the music scene is becoming more of a cultural export.

Iceland for Christmas | © Lisa Stevens/Flickr

One in ten will publish a book

Icelandic literature has also been extremely prolific. Iceland’s only Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Halldór Laxness, was one of the most important Icelandic writers in the 20th century and many say that he gave Icelanders the confidence to not only write but believe that what they wrote would be read. Recently, crime fiction authors such as Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Arnaldur Indriðason have become well known for their spell-binding works that have been translated into many languages. The statistic in Iceland is that one in ten Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime. Also, Iceland supposedly has more writers, per head, than any other country in the world.

Reykjavik Concert Hall (Iceland) | © David Phan/Flickr

The setting for films

The Icelandic film industry has also been very prolific in recent years, especially with the influx of directors using Iceland’s incredible landscapes and the ample summer daylight as backdrops in their films. Icelandic film directors such as Baltasar Kormákur have also been influential abroad.

Bookshelves of Halldor Laxness | © Qtea/Flickr

Abundant exhibition spaces

In the visual arts, Ragnar Kjartansson, has had many prominent exhibitions abroad and is perhaps the most well known Icelandic performance artist. Also, the amount of galleries and artist spaces in such a small country is astounding, and new ones pop up very steadily. When visiting Iceland, it is, of course, obvious to see how one could be endlessly inspired creatively by the landscape with its epic variety and expansiveness.

Linn Björklund, “The Shell,” Exhibition View, 2016 | Courtesy of Wind and Weather Window Gallery

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