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#TravelTuesday: Reykjavik

12 March 2018

Over the years, street art has become a way for cities to revive neighborhoods; a means for artists to express themselves in a more public space; a platform for activists to broadcast their messages; a medium for brands to let their colours show. From Miami to Lisbon, to Melbourne, and everything in between, the world has become a large canvas to discover.
MURAL Festival Blog introduces #TravelTuesday, a street art destination content series, where each piece will explore an artsy city’s unique street art culture.

Despite being the world’s northernmost capital, Reykjavik’s freezing streets are distinctly filled with artworks, making it one of the most creative and dynamic scenes for street art. With increasingly available cheap flights going to Iceland, the city has welcomed an influx of tourists over the past years. First attracted by the country’s iconic and unique landscapes, many tourists have been delighted to also discover a prolific art scene. Indeed, the Icelandic capital hosts a handful of creative minds, from designers to musicians and writers. Iceland has often received high ranks as one of the most innovative countries. Now they can also boast Reykjavik as the ninth most instagrammed city for graffiti art by Bombing Science.

Reykjavik in the 90s was truly a prime time for street art. Fueled by the era’s hip hop scene, graffiti artists’ favorite spot was Hlíðargöngin, a tunnel where many left their mark. In an historical first, City official, Jóhann “Jói” Jónmundsson, made a deal with the city to sanction the tunnel a legal place for young artists to freely create and show their art. Nowadays, Jói is no longer the street art curator he once was. However, Jói is arguably a key influencer for the city to decide to bring street artists down Hlíðargöngin again as part of Reykjavík’s annual Culture Night to revitalize its walls.

Photo Credit: Albumm.is

The Heart Park in Reykjavik has also taken the spotlight as a prime location for street art. Due to the halting of construction on a shopping mall project in 2008 (as a consequence of the economic crisis) the Heart Park became the perfect canvas. As a street art landmark for the city, it includes a playground, a skate-park, a DJ booth, a stage, picnic tables and benches, thanks to three Icelandic artists: Tanya Pollock, Tómas Magnússon and Selur. The Heart Park served as a creative environment loved by families, musicians, skaters and more. Unfortunately, like many other urban artworks, this expansive art piece was demolished recently. Similar to galleries featuring a limited preview of an exhibition, street art must also evolve organically. Fortunately, many artists, tourists and locals have immortalised the site with innumerable pictures and videos.

Photo Credit: I Heart Reyjavik

Photo Credit: I Heart Reyjavik

Nowadays, many of the artworks you’ll be able to appreciate in Reykjavik were created during the Wall Poetry Festival, an initiative by Urban Nation. In 2015 and 2016, the Berliner organization invited ten international street artists and paired them with musicians performing at the Festival to create artworks inspired by their melodies and lyrics. Take a tour down Laugavenur and Hverfisgata streets to observe some of the wall poetry produced as part of the Airwaves Festival.

Photo Credit: Iceland Airwaves | Piece by Li Hill, inspired by John Grant’s “Pale Green Ghosts”.

Photo Credit: I Heart Reyjavik | Piece by D*Face, inspired by Agent Fresco.

Photo Credit: I Heart Reyjavik | Piece by Tankpetrol, inspired by Gus Gus’s “Over”.

Photo Credit: I Heart Reyjavik | Piece by DEIH XLF, inspired by Vök’s “Waterfall”.

Locally, you can also reflect on the many pieces of Reykjavik’s leading street artist, Selur, whose favorite subject matter are animals. In Selur’s opinion, there are already enough humans in the city, the concrete walls need a little nature to liven up and he’s here to paint this additional touch of nature over the streets of his home country.

Photo Credit: Guide to Iceland

Taking a downtown stroll, you’ll also be able to discover local artist, Sara Riel’s delicate and colourful pieces.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Chris Christian

Margeir Dire, also a local artist, produces eclectic pieces including this one-of-a-kind mural. While you’re at it, don’t miss happy hour at Bar Ananas, a tiki-themed bar that also showcases his colourful work.

Photo Credit : Chris Christian

Find Icelandic artist, now living in Berlin, Siggi Eggertsson’s first and impressive mural at the Iceland Design Centre.

Finally, head west to Vesturbær and Grandi. Originally an industrial area, the neighborhood has transformed into a trendy destination spot filled with boutiques, cafes and galleries. You’ll be sure to find some impressive, large-scale murals, including those by Australian artist, Guido Van Helten, who recreated snap-shots of Andrés Kolbeinsson showcasing Icelandic actors in a local 1961 production.

Photo Credit: Guide to Iceland

Photo Credit : Ufunk

Cover Photo Credit: I Heart Reyjavik | Piece by Caratoes, inspired by Ylja’s “Óður til móður” song.

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