Kaleidoscope: Icelandic 20th Century Art

Jón Stefánsson: Hraunteigar við Heklu, 1930

Kaleidoscope: Icelandic 20th Century Art



Kaleidoscope is the title of an exhibition series that aims to examine artworks in the Reykjavík Art Museum’s collection. In 2023, the museum celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the museum’s first location at Kjarvalsstaðir. To mark this occasion, special attention is paid to the museum collection, with an opportunity to view and display treasures therefrom.

Presently, the museum collection holds over seventeen thousand registered artworks of all types and created in various media, from sketches and drafts by Kjarval to contemporary works by young and old artists. Kaleidoscope of the 20th century is presented at Kjarvalsstaðir, but the Kaleidoscope of the 21st century will be on display in Hafnarhús from 6 June, and Kaleidoscope of international art from the collection in Hafnarhús until 7 May.

The exhibition Kaleidoscope – Icelandic Art in the 20th Century gives an insight into Icelandic art during the last century through the part of our cultural heritage that is preserved at Reykjavík Art Museum. The museum belongs to the city of Reykjavík, and there with its citizens. Now is a chance to become acquainted with its collection.

What artworks can be found here, and by whom?

How did they become a part of the collection?

What stories do they tell and how do they reflect our past and present?

For Kjarvalsstaðir's fiftieth anniversary, an exhibition of selected Icelandic artworks from the 20th century will be opened on March 24th. The exhibition contains around two hundred pieces from the museum collection and is divided between the East and West Hall.

1973 - the year when Kjarvalsstaðir opened as a museum - marks a certain turning point in Icelandic art history, as it was a time when the linear progress of modernism gave way to the avant-garde multi-story telling. The exhibition contained works by many of Iceland’s foremost artists, works that are well-known as well as others that have rarely been displayed and will surprise many.

A kaleidoscope is a toy that disintegrates the conventional visual field and gives an opportunity to look at reality in a fragmented pattern. Similarly, an art museum’s collection can never be viewed except in parts, in various constructions and different contexts. The museum collection can never be anything but a fragmentary selection of art creation in any given period, and people’s view of the works affected by the zeitgeist of the time. Note that the museum collection can also be explored on the museum’s website, and there are always numerous works on display in the city’s institutions and service centres.

When Kjarvalsstaðir opened fifty years ago, Reykjavík’s art collection and exhibition staging was given a formal setting. The museum collection consists, among other things, of works that Jóhannes S. Kjarval bequeathed to the city, works that the city and its institutions had acquired, and donations from patrons. Ever since, it has been growing, with regular purchases and generous donations, and it continues to do so every year.



Edda Halldórsdóttir, Markús Þór Andrésson, Ólöf K. Sigurðardóttir