Iceland at the Biennale
Iceland has been involved in the Biennale on and off since 1960, when two highly respected artists, painter Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval and sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson, were selected to represent their country at the 30th Biennale.
Since then, many Icelandic artists have had the honour of representing Iceland in Venice (see below for a timeline). In 2013, Katrin Sigurdardottir is Iceland’s representative at the Biennale.
The Icelandic pavilion
Although Iceland has never owned its own pavilion – often sharing exhibition space with other nations – for a number of years it leased the Alvar Aalto pavilion from Finland.
In recent years, however, the Icelandic pavilion has been outside the main site. The dramatic growth of the Biennale has seen more and more nations taking part and now there are more shows held outside the Giardini than within.
Timeline of Icelanders at the Venice Biennale
1960: Kjarval and Ásmundur Sveinsson are Iceland’s first representatives at the Venice Biennale.
1972: Abstract pioneers Svavar Guðnason and Þorvaldur Skúlason share a pavilion with Norway and Sweden.
1976: Sigurður Guðmundsson takes part in the international exhibition, 72-76, one of the fringe events held in connection with the Biennale.
1978 The Nordic countries invite Iceland in
Sigurður Guðmundsson again appears at the Biennale, this time in the Norwegian/Swedish/Finnish pavilion.
1980 Magnús Pálsson features in the Danish pavilion.
1982: Jón Gunnar Árnason and Kristján Guðmundsson represent Iceland in a temporary, shared pavilion, which was still being built at the press opening.
1984 Iceland moves into the Alvar Aalto pavilion
Iceland acquires its own space, leasing Alvar Aalto’s Finnish pavilion. Kristján Davíðsson, at nearly 70 one of Iceland’s most respected artists, represents Iceland.
1986 Erró’s show at the Biennale is well-received, establishing the Icelandic pavilion on the international map.
1988 Gunnar Örn Gunnarsson
1990 Helgi Þorgils Friðjónsson
1993 Hreinn Friðfinnsson and Jóhann Eyfells
1995 The Biennale celebrates its centenary
Representing Iceland, Birgir Andrésson shows twelve flags, hand-knitted in Icelandic lopi wool.
1997 Steina Vasulka (Steinunn Bjarnadóttir) is the first woman, and the first video artist, to represent Iceland in Venice.
1999 Sigurður Árni Sigurðsson
2001 Finnbogi Pétursson
2005 Gabríela Friðriksdóttir (b. 1971) is the youngest Icelandic artist to go to the Biennale.
2007 Iceland leave the Alvar Aalto pavilion
The Icelandic Art Centre takes over Biennale organisation and selects Steingrímur Eyfjörð. He is the first Icelandic artist to show his work outside the main exhibition site.
2009 Ragnar Kjartansson (b.1976) is the youngest artist yet, with his show The End. Alongside a video installation, Ragnar has an open studio in Venice for the duration of the Biennale, i.e. nearly six months.
2011 Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson
2013 Katrin Sigurdardottir
2015 Christoph Büchel
2017 Egill Sæbjörnsson