“Reykjavik needs more artist run spaces”
Tourists are a blessing and a curse for the Icelandic art scene according to the director of Gallery Port, Árni Már Erlingsson.
The 30-year-old who started his art career writing on walls at the age of 12, spoke to us about running a temporary art space in the heart of downtown Reykjavik, where the influx of tourists in recent years has become a dominant force in the city.
“It’s been a nice opportunity for people travelling here to show them all this art, they really appreciate it. It would be good to go to a local environment which it is not located here in the downtown area. I think the tourists are doing some great things for the bigger spaces and galleries running for years with resources and a lot of people working for them, a lot of them are nice. More tourists are coming… it’s interesting that it’s helping the art scene spread somewhere else, the rents now, everything is going insane, artists are finding new ways.”
“We’re not seeing the money from the tourists. Here tourists are not spending money, it’s mostly Icelandic people.”
Gallery Port, which is now closed, was located in a building that was due to be demolished as part of the reconstruction of the city.
“They’re going to tear down this part of the building, nothing can be done about it.”
“It’s going to be sad in some way, we’ve seen the projects and exhibitions come to life and grow into something bigger but it was always supposed to be temporary.”
“We’ve had traditional oil paintings to more contemporary pieces. We try to work with the younger generation of artists. Some artists are so thankful to show their work, it means so much to them.”
“There is a need for more artist run spaces in Reykjavik. We have to say no to a lot of people, we try and find them other solutions but it would be nice if we have three or four more spaces.”
Árni, whose work is now focused on 3D sculpture, told us he felt more could be done to support artists in Iceland.
“It’s nice growing up as an artist in Iceland. There’s a big group of people looking to do nice things, at least that’s how I’ve seen it, who are doing it for the cause. People just want to make things happen.”
“A lot of people value art, but once a year there is a grant application for an artist salary and when that happens you usually see how people don’t get it and don’t understand the art industry.”
Find out more about Árni here.
Words by Beth Cherryman