“I like to influence the art scene here in Iceland,” Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir, director and owner of BERG Contemporary, tells me as we sit on the gallery’s second floor. “I’ve been working as an artist for decades, and I was an art teacher for a long time at the Academy of the Arts in Iceland; I’ve also been a curator, and I’ve also collected art—so this was the last role I wanted to try.” Jónsdóttir spent years searching for the right place for a gallery before finding this spot just a year and a half ago. The central space garners steady foot traffic from tourists, and underwent major renovations to reach its current, pristine state (it was formerly an office, but originally a glass factory), and there’s more to come. A large window at the back of the gallery looks onto a freshly finished deck and two small properties, one of which will be converted into a space for showing video art and site-specific work. The other will be replaced with apartments where visiting artists may stay.
“I intend to run this gallery as a place for museum-quality exhibitions—that is the aim,” notes Jónsdóttir. “I want the exhibitions to be experimental; the kind of artists I mainly work with are doing things that are not totally mainstream.” The gallery’s eight-artist roster is where its strength lies, spanning Icelandic and international artists, with a focus on video and multimedia installations.
For example, BERG Contemporary is the first gallery to represent
(born in Reykjavík and Brno, Czech Republic, respectively), video art pioneers who developed methods that have been hugely influential to younger generations of artists. (Both artists will have solo shows in 2017.) Among younger artists is
, who creates encompassing installations that are equal parts sound, video, and installation. Similarly expansive are the works of
, who is known for large-scale installations that involve giant tanks of water, speakers, and light—a show of new works by the artist inaugurated the gallery in March. And while Icelandic artists make up over half of the roster, international artists are key to the program, like Japanese artist
and Polish artist
. “I think art is a very international thing,” says Jónsdóttir when asked if she feels pressure to be an ambassador of Icelandic art. “I don’t think that borders are suitable in art.”