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Hello Universe

February 5, 2021January 9, 2022

The far-distant spaces of the boundless universe have had a hold on the human mind from primeval times, and over the centuries artists have grappled with notions about space, and expressed and mediated them in diverse ways. The exhibition Hello Universe explores the fantastical world of outer space through the lens of works of art in the collection of the National Gallery of Iceland.

The avant-garde art of Finnur Jónsson – the first Icelandic artist to address outer space in his works, in the first half of the 20th century – presents the artist’s unfettered interpretation of the marvels of the celestial bodies, which are the theme of this exhibition.

The secrets of the Milky Way, revealed by aged astrologers with predictions about weather and human destiny, inspire works by Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir and Svavar Guðnason. Halldór Ásgeirsson’s Aurora Borealis Bar shimmers with colourful light; and Steina Vasulka’s installation Of the North transports the observer with her into an intense experience.

In the art of Ásgrímur Jónsson and Guðmundur Thorsteinsson (Muggur), from the first half of the 20th century, we see how heavenly bodies play a role in folklore and tales, as moonlight reveals mystical beings to human sight, and the rays of the rising sun turn night-trolls to stone. The exhibition also includes many pieces from the 1960s and 70s, when rapid advances in space technology took humans beyond the bounds of the Earth’s atmosphere for the first time.

Space and art share the common qualities of being interesting and mutable: they are in constant motion, and new discoveries are always being made when one looks at art. Tumi, the protagonist of artist Ásgerður Búadóttir’s book The Red Hat and the Raven, will guide the youngest visitors around the exhibition in an accessible way, to explore the scientific perspective and learn something new!

Curators: Guðrún Jóna Halldórsdóttir and Ragnheiður Vignisdóttir

Science consultant: Sævar Helgi Bragason