ART, CULTURE AND MUSIC
Reykjavík is the place to be for those with an interest in the world of arts and culture. It is home to the majority of our most prestigious cultural institutions and talented performers and artists. Iceland has one of the highest rates of artists, writers, and musicians per capita in the world. From avant-garde nightlife to sustainable geothermal energy systems, Iceland has never been short on innovation. Artists and designers find inspiration and innovation in Iceland’s outstanding surroundings which are evident in unique works of visual art from paintings to sculptures to jewelry and glass work.
Cutting-edge festivals like Airwaves, Reykjavík’s Art Festival, Design March, special exhibitions and stage productions mean that the cultural calendar is always full of various events. With Reykajvík’s latest cultural hotspot, Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center, the cultural sphere was even more improved as it is an ideal venue for major music concerts. It is clear that Reykjavík is a paradise for those who want to experience all aspects of culture.
Considering that Iceland only has around 320.000 inhabitants, the number of museums and art galleries in the country is impressive. From the avant-garde to the historical, Reykjavík’s galleries, museums, theaters and festivals support a vibrant and sophisticated artistic culture. The visual arts are highly valued in Icelandic culture and Reykjavik has always been the hotbed of Iceland’s subversive creativity renowned for its lively and energetic character. A walk around the capital reveals a wide range of fascinating galleries, as well as the pensive architecture of Guðjón Samúelsson and the bold sculptures of Einar Jónsson that decorate the city. The capital is where the largest museums and galleries are located in Iceland. Among the most visited are the Culture House, Einar Jonsson Museum, and the National Gallery. Some museums are architectural delights in their own design, others galleries are intimate and cosy; while some of double as cafes or event venues.
Design in Reykjavík is a field that has been growing rapidly from its craft-based roots into a thriving industry. A trait typical of contemporary Icelandic design is its pioneering spirit using sustainable products with a unique style. Using the country’s natural resources as materials for products results in a range of designs unique to Iceland. Pottery made from volcanic lava, lights from dried fish sit alongside aluminum stools and belts created from salmon skin leather. The best time to soak up Iceland’s emerging and established design talent is during the Design Festival in Reykjavik held in March.
The city is packed with metropolitan delights and is especially strong in the performance arts, from film to theater and dance. A special Culture Night is held in August where the city becomes a living stage for theatrical performances in unexpected locations but Iceland offers exceptional theater with actors and directors of international caliber, all year around. The capital has a choice of many different venues and has two full-time companies performing at the National Theater and the Reykjavik City Theater year round. A blossoming genre on the Icelandic cultural scene is the film industry with Icelandic actors, writers, and directors making waves on the international circuit. Reykjavík International Film Festival, or RIFF, is acclaimed for its quality and originality and StockFish Short Film festival has also started to make a name for itself internationally.
Iceland is a nation of music lovers, with a trending scene that has gained widespread international acclaim, often for the Icelandic quirkiness (Björk, Sigurrós, Múm). However, the local music is significant in Reykjavík’s cultural life. The musical acts represent a broad spectrum of musical genres, from folk music to death metal, rap to lo-fi, punk rock to reggae and with numerous musical events each week it’s east to experience acts first hand at live concerts. Reykjavík boasts a large number of intimate music venues, along with the newly opened Harpa Concert Hall which now houses the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera.
Reykjavik is renowned for its ever evolving contemporary music scene with everything on offer from jazz to heavy metal every night of the week, throughout the year. Gigs are held in local cafes and tucked-away bars where you may up and coming bands or some of the more established acts that have gone on to international fame like Olafur Arnalds, Of Monsters and Men and Asgeir Trausti, just to name a few. There are also a number of wonderful music festivals throughout the country and the most celebrated are the Reykjavik Jazz Festival in August and the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival held in October/November which draws bands and music fans from all over the world. The newest addition to the vibrant music scene in Iceland is the Secret Solstice festival which is held in Laugardalur Valley, during the summer solstice.