While I was in Reykjavik in early February there was plenty of snow and ice, however a walk around the city quickly revealed a world of colour – the houses and buildings are multi-coloured and there’s a treasure trove of street art adorning building walls, car parks, houses, and everything in between, even our hotel building and reception got in on the act with pieces by Spanish artist Deih XLF and Brooklyn based Icelandic artist Sóla Eva.
I discovered that most of the street art in Reykjavík was created as part of a project called Wall Poetry, which was organised in 2015 and 2016 as a collaboration between the music festival Iceland Airwaves and German art institution Urban Nation. For this project, each year 10 bands and 10 artists join forces in making street art inspired by songs of musicians performing at Iceland Airwaves.
Wall Poetry 2015
Wall Poetry 2016
Many of the original murals are now gone but you can read more about the project and hear some of the music in this article:
Guido Van Helten
Guido Van Helten visited Reykjavik, where he completed large scale murals on 3 sides of the ‘Loftkastalinn’ building in the old harbour area of the city.
Guido based the murals on photographs by Andres Kolbeinsson selected from the Reykjavik Museum of Photography Archive. They represent scenes from the Jean-Paul Sartre play ‘No Exit’ performed in the city in 1961 in which the characters Estelle, Garcin and Inez are locked together in a room for eternity. There is much building work in the area and it looks like these murals will disappear. I will include some stock images to show what they originally looked like.
Guido was also commissioned by the owner of a house in the area to paint a mural based on a photo of her grandfather.
Just like Glasgow, the scene in Reykjavik has improved due to the rise in tourism, and the changes in the city’s infrastructure, construction sites have become temporary havens for works of street art and are helping young local artists get the practice they need. While these works are only very temporary additions to the city, disappearing quite quickly as construction moves along, ultimately this is one of the main foundations of street art and what makes it so unique; it’s the ability to reflect what’s happening in the city around it.
I have included a number of the murals I found by local artists like Örn Tönsberg (a.k.a. Selur), Arnor Kari I don’t know much about them, but they do show great talent.