Karin Sander’s Proposal the Winner of Competition for Outdoor Artwork in Vogabyggð

Karin Sander

Palm Trees, the German artist Karin Sander’s proposal, is the winner of the competition for outdoor artwork in Vogabyggð. The selection committee’s choice was announced in Reykjavík Art Museum, Kjarvalsstaðir, this afternoon. The proposal presumes two palm trees installed in large, cylindrical greenhouses, emitting light and warmth.
The selection committee also suggested the purchase of the artwork by the Danish group A Kassen.

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson opened the ceremony but it fell to Hjálmar Sveinsson, city councillor and chairman of the selection committee, to announce the winner. 
This is the biggest outdoor artwork competition which has been held in Reykjavík. The call was for proposals which would support the objective of making art a significant and prominent part of the environment and life in Vogabyggð, thus creating a stimulating environment for all age and social groups. The focus was on the ambitious idea of making art a part of the neighbourhood’s infrastructure, and so the financing of the art is a collaboration between property owners and the city of Reykjavík.

Thirteen outstanding proposals were received and the selection committee had an extremely difficult task. All the proposals will be exhibited in Kjarvalsstaðir until 7 February.

It was the unanimous verdict of the selection committee that Karin Sander’s proposal Palm Trees was the winner of the competition. The committee’s review reads: “The proposal is unexpected, entertaining and daring. Palm trees are placed in two cylindrical greenhouse towers which are installed on the edge of a centralised square on the banks of Ketilbjarnarsíki. The trees emanate light and warmth. As pointed out by the author of the proposal, palm trees carry the spirit of southern countries. They represent warm and exotic places and cultures, and also embody a utopian paradise motif. Here they flourish in a cold and dark country – just like foreign people who have moved here. The greenhouses lend the square and its surroundings a fantastic air, in night and day, and will be a prominent landmark which draws attention to itself. They also represent time, as the locals can watch the trees grow, they start out small and become big and bear fruit. In a way, the greenhouses could be viewed as enormous test tubes. This artwork creates a stimulating environment for all ages and social groups. It activates the space without dominating the square and gives space for activities and play. This will no doubt create a diverse and active square, connected to walking and cycling paths in this new city neighbourhood, as well a footbridge across the canal to a spit in the mouth of Elliðaá River, called Fleyvangur. The spit will be the home of a primary school, kindergarten and a local park. It is easy to visualise that the children’s walk to and from school, past the palm trees, will be interesting and rewarding. The idea behind this proposal is simple but daring and original, and the execution is powerful and convincing. Instead of imitating local nature, this work echoes nature from elsewhere. The proposal assumes that the palm trees could be replaced with other trees, for example Japanese cherry trees, in 10 to 15 years, if the inhabitants so desire. This gives the inhabitants the advantage of having a direct part in the work’s development.”

Karin Sander was born in Germany in 1957. She is among the prominent contemporary artists who have made their mark with artwork in acknowledged exhibition halls as well as public spaces. Her artwork is characterised by a dialogue with their environment, places’ history and social connections. She has received numerous awards and recognition and her work can be found in museum collections internationally. She has created many large works, both temporary and permanent, for public spaces. Karin Sander lives in Berlin, but has been a frequent visitor in Iceland since 1993, and her work has been exhibited widely around the country.

Apart from the winning proposal, the selection committee suggests that the city of Reykjavík also purchases the proposal from the Danish art group A Kassen. The committee’s review reads: “Endless Lamppost is an entertaining proposal where it is suggested that one traditional lamppost at some street or square will be replaced with a 30 metre high lamppost. The work is an ode to Endless Column, the work of Constantin Brancusi, and thus references art history as well as raising questions of why the city looks the way it does. It is a humorous proposal and adds a poetic dimension to everyday life in this new neighbourhood. In certain conditions, the light on the tall lamppost can resemble a shining star above the area.”
A Kassen is a collaboration between the Danish artists Christian Bretton-Meyer, Morten Steen Hebsgaard, Søren Petersen and Tommy Petersen. The group has been operating since 2004 and its work has been exhibited widely in the international community. Their art is playful, cunning, and opens up unexpected views of environment and culture. Their art can be found in public spaces all over Europe, mainly in the Nordic countries.

According to Vogabyggð’s local plan, art shall be a part of the overall design of public spaces in the neighbourhood. This is consistent with the city’s policy and a part of an agreement with current property owners in the area. The amount allotted to the purchasing of artwork/s is 140 million isk, and the project is funded collectively by the city of Reykjavík and property owners in Vogabyggð.
The competition was held in accordance with the competition rules of The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists (SÍM) – a closed competition with an open preselection. 165 artists expressed an interest in participating, but a preselection committee chose from submitted proposals eight artists or art groups to continue on to the closed part of the competition. The art competition was advertised internationally and around 70% of the submitted proposals in the first round came from artists living abroad.

The artists chosen for final participation were the art group A Kassen, Alicja Kwade, Carl Boutard, Elín Hansdóttir, Finnbogi Pétursson, Karin Sander, Rósa Gísladóttir and Tomás Saraceno. They were asked to submit one or two proposals each, two versions of the same proposal were also permitted. Thirteen valid proposals were submitted.

Members of the selection committee were Hjálmar Sveinsson, city councillor and chairman; Signý Pálsdóttir, former office manager of cultural activity in Reykjavík; Ólöf Nordal, artist and professor at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, as well as artists Baldur Geir Bragason and Ragnhildur Stefánsdóttir.

Reykjavík Art Museum is in charge of art works in Vogabyggð and responsible for this competition.