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Visitors to Iceland are always surprised by the tremendous vitality of its cultural life. Lovers of the arts and culture are in for a real treat in Reykjavik. Strong Icelandic tradition and international culture thrive side by side to weave a rich tapestry of delights and experiences. On the cultural front there is the choice of symphony orchestra, opera, theaters (there's no language barrier for the frequent musicals), and a colorful variety of other musical events. Alongside home artists, growing numbers of celebrated international performers from all genres are eager to include "cool but hot" Iceland in their tour programs these days. And for a little daytime cultural input, a fine national and international mix is also found at the many visual art museums and galleries.



Visual Art
Reykjavik and the surrounding area are home to a vast number of art galleries of every size, shape and description. Some are architectural delights, some intimate and cozy; some of them even double as cafes or movie-theater lobbies. And none of them ever stands empty. In fact the output of fine arts and crafts in Iceland far surpasses what the existing galleries and showrooms can handle.

Reykjavik Art Museum comprises the Asmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum, the Kjarval Collection, the Erro Collection, the Architectural Museum and the Reykjavik Art Collection. The Museum is located in three different places in Reykjavik, each with its own characteristics.

Harbor House: A better location for an art museum than the Harbor House is difficult to imagine. The panoramic view from the large windows in the cafeteria and library, facing north, features the old harbor. On the South side, there is the hustle and bustle of busy downtown, allowing visitors to capture city-life and passers-by to catch a glimpse of the best of Icelandic art. Opened in April 2000, the museum has six exhibition halls for art, a multi-purpose space and an outdoor area in an enclosed courtyard. It hosts exhibitions from the general collections of the Reykjavik Museum and diverse temporary exhibitions of works by Icelandic and international artists. Exhibitions from the Erro Collection also have a permanent place in the museum's schedule.

Asmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum: The museum is dedicated to the sculptures and drawings of artist Asmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982). The collection is in the artist's former studio and home, which he designed mostly himself. A sculpture garden surrounds the museum adorned by almost thirty of his sculptures.

Kjarvalsstadir: At Kjarvalsstadir works by leading Icelandic and international artists of the 20th century are exhibited. The works of Johannes S. Kjarval, "Iceland's best-loved landscape painter" are regularly on display. A museum shop and cafeteria, overlooking the Miklatun Park and the Pearl, are also situated at Kjarvalsstadir.

The National Gallery, founded in 1884, houses the national collection of 19th and 20th century Icelandic and international art. The National Gallery is also a center for the study, documentation and promotion of Icelandic art. The National Gallery of Iceland regularly exhibits a variety of works from its own collection, as well as extensive special exhibitions of works by Icelandic and international artists every year.

Asgrimur Jonsson (1876 - 1958) bequest all of his paintings to the Icelandic nation and they now form a department for the National Gallery, housed in a separate premises at the artist's former studio on 74 Bergstadastraeti. The collection contains oil paintings, watercolors and drawings.

The Arni Magnusson Institute, located on the University Campus, is a short walk from the old center of Reykjavik. It is a research institute exhibiting medieval and later Icelandic manuscripts.

The Einar Jonsson Museum, opposite the Hallgrimur Petursson Memorial Church, is an indoor and outdoor sculpture exhibition.

The Arbaer Open Air Museum is one that all people interested in Icelandic society past and present should visit. It is a museum of living history, meaning the staff dress in period clothing and attempts are made to re-create the past as accurately as possible. The name of the museum is drawn from the old turf farm Arbaer, located on the premises. The Arbaer Church, which is also a turf building, dates back to 1842. Its interior is quite lovely in its Nordic austerity. The village is a collection of houses - including a quaint little general store - which mirror the living style of 20th century Reykjavik, from ordinary working people through to the higher echelons of society. In between the houses are generous stretches of lawn, well suited for playing games, lounging or even soaking up the sun in good weather.

The Icelandic theater scene, which runs year-round, couldn't be hotter these days with more shows currently running than ever before. Reykjavik has two full-time companies performing at the National Theater and the Reykjavik City Theater.


Iceland's cultural season begins in the fall with the first concert by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Concerts, performed at the University Concert Hall, have received rave reviews from critics at home and abroad. Foreign conductors and featured artists have performed alongside Icelandic musicians playing works by Icelandic and foreign composers.

The Icelandic Opera opens its cultural season in the fall with performances at the northernmost opera house in the world. Although the elegant old cinema house in the heart of Reykjavik seats only 473, individual productions have drawn overall audiences of 8,000.