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Treasures of a Nation

1 September, 20214 September, 2022

Treasures of a Nation in the Culture House – Masterpieces of Icelandic Art.

In this building the National Gallery of Iceland displays masterpieces of Icelandic art. Here are works of art dating from the latter half of the 19th century to the present day, that reflect the artists’ wide-ranging themes, offering visitors the welcome opportunity to see many of the nation’s most important works of art. On 1 March 2021 the Culture House passed into the keeping of the National Gallery.

The building, completed in 1909, was originally built to house the National Library, National Archives and National Museum collections. It was the first purpose-built facility for such collections in Iceland. This splendid old building now enables the National Gallery to hold a standing exhibition of key works from its collections, and it is a welcome addition to the Gallery’s exhibition spaces.

In various rooms on the upper floors, works by pioneers of Icelandic painting depict Icelandic nature in a sublime light – and the enchantment of long, bright Icelandic summer nights has a universal appeal. Landscape, nature and how to depict them has been a constant in Icelandic art. But other themes are also seen here. The People of the Country have been an essential subject for many artists over the years, and here on the ground floor genre works are on display, depicting people of Iceland at sea and on the land, as well as expressive portraits.

Still lifes are also seen, in which artists work with everyday objects from their surroundings, colour, form and diverse textures; and, last but not least, the exhibition includes a selection from the National Gallery’s extensive collection of abstract art.

The top floor of the Culture House was in past times a popular viewing-point for the townspeople of Reykjavík, as the building stood high above the fast-expanding town around it. In the attic visitors can look out of the windows across the harbour to the sea beyond, and see for themselves the vistas that have inspired so many artists, as manifested in their art.

The exhibition Treasures of a Nation in the Culture House throws light on the invaluable collections of the National Gallery of Iceland; the art reflects the zeitgeist of each era, for art is in constant dialogue and renewal, in step with society itself.