The Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson will unveil a new work next February at the National Museum Cardiff, which will entail a five-week long performance of the popular Italian song Il cielo in una stanza. The song will be played repeatedly on an organ that once belonged to the 18th century Welsh art collector Watkin Williams Wynn.
“This solitary space, usually filled with glorious artwork, suddenly becomes empty”, Kjartansson says of the work, which echoes his 2013 collaboration A Lot of Sorrow with the rock band The National.
The Sky in a Room (3 February-11 March 2018) has been commissioned by Artes Mundi and the National Museum Wales after Kjartansson was awarded the £30,000 Derek Williams Trust purchase prize. The award funds the purchase by the National Museum of Wales of one work for every Artes Mundi exhibition that takes place.
“National Museum Wales is delighted to work in partnership with Artes Mundi to welcome Ragnar Kjartansson back to Wales to produce a new work,” says Nick Thornton, head of fine and Ccontemporary art at the National Museum Wales.
“The Sky in a Room will be the first piece of performance art to enter the national collection and will completely transform one of Cardiff’s great gallery spaces [which usually houses 18th-century paintings]”, Thornton says.