Polish galleries stage Iceland art festival

Villa Reykjavík extends original Villa Warsaw event

Poland’s commercial galleries Raster and Foksal Foundation will this summer stage a one-off arts festival in Iceland. “Villa Reykjavík” will take place in the capital from 9 to 31 July, bringing together 13 galleries from across Europe. The festival is an extension of the “Villa Warsaw” event staged in Poland in 2006.

The aim is to establish a temporary “international art district”, with organisers suggesting that Reykjavík bears resemblance to Warsaw in being, “peripheral, natural and modest, but at the same time of great potential”. Katherine Kastner of participating Czech gallery Hunt Kastner, said: “The project is not an art fair-type presentation, and the aim of the exhibitions and presentations is not to sell art, but if someone did want to buy an exhibited work it could be arranged. The gallerists will be on site for the first week of the exhibition projects (which will be open to the public free of charge) during which time there will be a full programme of accompanying events.”

Villa Warsaw was a week-long summer festival that sought to make Warsaw’s gallery scene accessible to a wider public, opening up what Raster and Foksal described as a “hermetically-sealed ghetto”. The galleries hope that Villa Reykjavík will develop this ethos, creating an “open atmosphere, facilitating contact between the audience, artists, and gallery owners”. Reykjavík’s i8 gallery will act as the project’s local partner, with events in a range of locations.

The extension of an originally Polish event to Iceland is evidence of a trend among galleries working on the periphery of the art world’s major centres to look for new ways of gaining international attention. The project also raises questions over the dividing line between commercial and non-commercial activities, and the role of private galleries in fostering dynamic cultural scenes.

With most regional galleries reporting that they make the majority of their income at major art fairs, whether such “side projects” can ever prove self-sustaining remains to be seen. Villa Reykjavík will be funded by grants from the governments of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, through the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism (defined at as “Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway's [contribution] to the reduction of social and economic disparities within the European Economic Area”). Without such support, emerging galleries argue that they would not be able to access an international audience.

The galleries participating in Villa Reykjavík are: Croy Nielsen, Berlin; Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw; Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris; Hollybush Gardens, London; Hunt Kastner, Prague; i8, Reykjavík; IBID Projects, London; Jan Mot, Brussels; Johann König, Berlin; Kling & Bang, Reykjavík; Raster, Warsaw; Rodeo, Istanbul; Tulips & Roses, Vilnius; Zero, Milan.

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