Westfjord ArtFest

Westfjord ArtFest was held for the second time this Easter in Ísafjörður and involved 58 artists from all over Iceland. The festival was in two different spaces this year; in Norska Bakaríid and The Edinborg Culture Center. Norska Bakaríid used to be a bakery and a store in downtown Ísafjörður, but now the house has been empty for a long time. This was an excellent location for an art exhibition like this. Twenty-five artists displayed twenty paintings and five video-works in Norska bakaríid. Most of the artists had been working on their piece since last year. The theme of the paintings was 1×1, which is a reference to the size of the paintings. In The Edinborg Culture Center, the exhibition Phobophobia was on display, a collaborative art exhibition of 33 illustrators. Their work can be seen everywhere, from the books on the shelves in our living rooms to the cereal boxes in our kitchen cupboards, our homes are filled with illustrations, both obvious and hidden. As a part of DesignMarch 2012, the illustrators had created posters that explored the scary, complex and sometimes comic world of phobias.

It is the online art gallery Muses.is that kept track of the festival with support from various local companies. Muses’s curator, Rakel Sævarsdóttir, is behind the whole plot. I sat down with Rakel and she told me a little bit about muses.is and The Westfjord Art festival.

Tell me something about you and muses.is, what is it?

Muses.is is an online art-showcase and gallery. Artists that have ambition and are doing exciting things in their creations have their works there. We want to promote the artists outside the electronic world so we also put up all kinds of exhibitions. The gallery itself provides various services for customers and our ultimate goal is to bring art closer to the public. You can look at our art at home or anywhere as long as you have a computer and our exhibitions are alive and interesting and open for everyone.

Where did this idea come from?

The idea came when I was in the University finishing my MA degree in Culture and communication. I talked about this to a friend of mine, then a few months later she came to me and asked if we should start working on the idea and since then, there has been no turning back except now I run the gallery on my own with support from all the artist on Muses.is.

How do you see it expand in the future or how do you want to evolve this concept?

I want to continue to add exciting artists to the gallery and put up exhibitions, further more I want to take the exhibitions outside the country. This summer, me and the programmer will work more on the website, to make it more interactive and I want to provide more prints and other art related products to the customers.

Westfjord ArtFest is kind of a new festival in Iceland, where did you get the idea?

I´m raised in the Westfjords and have been going there during easter ever since I moved to Reykjavik. A lot has changed since the skiing area was destroyed by an avalanche and had to be moved to a safer location. The biggest change during the annual Skiing Week, as it´s called, is the addition of the rock festival Aldrei fór ég Suður. That was a really a good change and gave the locals and visitors a reason to stay and visit Isafjördur. The idea of Westfjord ArtFest just came up as a way to bring balance to the rock during the day. To bring talented artists to Isafjördur and work with the local artists in making a cultural event for everyone to visit.

It is the second time the festival is held, how was this year different from the first one?

Last year was my first experience in setting up a big exhibition – we had great artists, a great location, amazing artwork but didn´t have any time to promote the festival so we didn’t have many visitors. Since then I´ve worked on four big exhibitions and therefore have more experience. On top of that I had a big help from Aldís María Valdimarsdóttir, who worked with me as a publicist and other friends and family members. As musician Mugison said so nicely: “You can´t do shit on your own”


On muses.is you can place bids in the artwork at the artfestival Westfjord Artfest, which was held for the second time in Isafjördur this easter.

See you next year in Ísafjördur!

Interview: Aldís María Valdimarsdóttir
Poster: Kristinn Gunnar Atlason
Photographs: Aldís María & Aníta Björk Jóhannsdóttir