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Archive of Missing Artworks

9 July, 20227 August, 2022

The Living Art Museum collection has become a living legend, but it contains unsolved mysteries which will now become the focus of the museum’s exhibition space in the Mashall house. The aim of the Archive of Missing Artworks is to publicly perform a comprehensive collection assessment while searching for the solutions to these mysteries. Guests are invited to participate in the inquiry and search for answers. The project will take over the exhibition space in the Marshall House from 9 July to 7 August this summer. At the same time, we will start recording material for the Nýló channel, a new podcast service that will launch in the summer. The Archive of Missing Artworks works will continue in the museum’s collection space in Völvufell for the following year.

What could have happened to the missing artworks? Where are they? Were they returned to previous owners? Transferred to another storage? Were they loaned for exhibition and never returned? Did they suffer irreversible damage? Are there any photographs of the works? Has anything been written about them? When was the last time they were shown? And what about the works we don’t know anything about? Where did they come from? Who is the artist? Do you have information for us? We invite you to join us in creating the Archive of Missing Artworks.


The Living Art Museum’s Collection grew rapidly from the museum’s founding in 1978 and counts close to 3000 pieces today. At the inception the guiding principle was artists’ dissidence against a perceived indifference of public art institutions toward contemporary art. As a result, the collection is unique in many ways. It represents a history of development in Icelandic art from the 1970s to today but also includes works by a multitude of international and renown artists. The collection consists exclusively of donations, most often from artists donating their own work.


Collections managers in Nýló through the years have encountered mysteries in the storage, artworks that cannot be found, orphaned works or completely unknown ones. With the Archive of Missing Artworks, the aim is to conduct a foundational collections assessment and document the lost artworks and record their contextual metadata. The project entails an inspection of every shelf, drawer and storage area with regard to the documented storage location on the online database Sarpur as well as paper documents for every piece that has been donated to the collection.


The museum holds two archive collections; the Archive of Artist Run Initiatives and the Performance Archive, as well as an archive of internal affairs, but the final phase of this projects will result in the addition of the Archive of Missing Artworks. This will contain comprehensive documentation of the artworks that are considered lost. The byproduct of the archives development will be the collections assessment and further information on mysterious or orphaned works in the collection.


By collecting documentation and metadata on the missing artworks, they will be reclaimed as elements of the archive, while they are searched for physically in the assessment. By opening this side of the museum work to guests, a delicate side of the institutional workflow is exposed and the public is asked to participate as researchers.


The first phase of this project will take over the museum’s exhibition space in the Marshall House, where it will be jump started with the assistance of museum guests and the future of the assessment will be formulated. For the following months, the project will continue in the collecion storage in Völvufell, with regular opening hours. This will be a part of opening the collection, providing valuable access and enhancing the visibility of the Nýló collection.


The Living Art Museum
Grandagarður 20
Reykjavík, 101 Iceland
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