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Francesca von Habsburg plans for new art centre called into question

Banking sector collapse blamed

Reykjavik

Hopes are starting to fade in Iceland for a planned new art centre in central Reykjavik, organised by Francesca von Habsburg, founder of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Con­temporary (TBA 21) foundation. A year ago Von Habsburg announced plans to relocate parts of her collection to Iceland, joining forces with the Dieter Roth foundation and the Living Art Museum (Nylo). The three institutions were supposed to open an art space together, but so far nothing more has happened. “We have not had any further discussions since last spring [2009],” Birta Gudjóns­dóttir, the director of Nylo, confirmed to The Art Newspaper. Some fear that the project may even be shelved.

The foundation responded in a statement saying: “TBA 21 remains committed towards the realisation of this project while investigating other opportunities in Austria, Hungary, and Spain.” According to a spokeswoman, the collapse of the Icelandic banking system is to blame for the delay, as the new art centre was to be housed in property owned by a bank that has since been nationalised. “It is awkward for [Von Habsburg] as well as Nylo,” Hlynur Hallson, one of the many artists behind the Nylo museum, said. “At the moment, many good projects cannot be realised because of the financial situation.”

Von Habsburg is considered by many to be a patron of the Icelandic art scene. Among the artists she has helped bring to prominence is Christoph Schlingensief, who created a major work funded by TBA 21 as part of the Reykjavik Arts Festival 2005, and Ragnar Kjartansson, whose 2007 show at Nylo was also sponsored by the collector. Von Habsburg also offered to partly fund his presentation as Iceland’s representative at the 2009 Venice Biennale, but Kjartansson’s galleries, i8 in Reykjavik and Luhring Augustine in New York, decided this was unnecessary.

But Reykjavik-based artist Ásmundur Ásmundsson, who has produced works satirising the collector, calls Von Habsburg a “caricature” and says that Iceland’s artists have been let down.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Francesca von Habsburg cools on Iceland'