If you're into visual arts and want to check out the best art museums and photo exhibitions in Reykjavik, be sure not to miss these top 7 museums to view Icelandic fine arts, sculptures and photography.
There are 3 different buildings belonging to the Reykjavik Art Museum collection, called Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstadir, and Ásmundarsafn. They are open daily 10:00-17:00 (except Ásmundarsafn opens at 13:00), and the 1100ISK ticket is valid for all the museums on the same day.
Listasafn Reykjavikur - Reykjavik Art Gallery at Hafnarhús
Hafnarhús, located near the old harbour downtown, is a 1930´s refurbished building housing permanent exhibitions of Iceland´s artistic hero Erró. The temporary exhibitions rotate seasonally, and display works by some of the more experimental and progressive artists Iceland has to offer. There is a great cafe with a view out to the sea, and a large hall which is used for various events like the Iceland Airwaves music festival.
Kjarvalsstaðir - Kjarval Museum
Kjarvalsstaðir, located in a big green park, has a permanent display of Jóhannes S. Kjarval´s paintings. Kjarval is one of Iceland's best known and influential artists, and his paintings sit at home in the private collections of many Icelanders. Other fine work collections rotate through the temporary exhibition hall, and the building itself is definitely worth a visit since it was designed and built specifically to display visual art.
Ásmundarsafn - Ásmundur Sculpture Museum
Ásmundarsafn was formerly the private home and workshop of the sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. He designed and constructed the house himself, and his sculptures are displayed both inside and outside the building. His work is particularly interesting to see if you have an interest in the Icelandic sagas, since they depict visions inspired by folk tales and Norse mythology.
The Einar Jónsson Museum - Sculpture Garden and Gallery
The Einar Jónsson Museum is a regal looking, concrete mansion across from downtown Reykjavik´s Hallgrimskirkja. A man named Einar Jónsson donated all his works to the Icelandic government and they built the house in 1923. It's only open on the weekends during winter to enter the house gallery (admission 600ISK), but the sculpture garden is open all year round with free entrance. The garden has 26 bronze casts of Einar's work, and it's the perfect place to go for a casual stroll.
Listasafn Íslands - National Gallery of Iceland
The National Gallery of Iceland is open every day except Mondays, from 11:00-17:00, and was originally established in 1884 with a donation of mostly Danish artwork. Today its main emphasis is on 19th and 20th century Icelandic art, and contains some of the most valuable foreign art in the country from famous artists such as Picasso and Edward Munch. Temporary exhibitions also feature internationally acclaimed artists, and you can see what is currently being shown on their website.
Ljósmyndasafn Reykjavikur - Reykjavik Museum of Photography
This independent museum located in the same building as the city library has around 5 million photographs, shot between 1870 and 2002. They are compiled from professional and amateur photographers, and display everything from portraits to landscape, and industrial to press photography. Though the focus is on Icelandic photography, works by foreign photographers are also sometimes displayed. Entrance is free, and check their opening hours on their homepage.
Fótógrafí - Ari Sigvaldason´s Photography Gallery
Located on Skolavordustigur in downtown Reykjavik, this cute little boutique shop sells the personal photography of Ari Sigvaldason and other Icelandic photographers. He has an extensive collection of black and white photographs, available for sale in various print sizes, that document the life and times of Reykjavik for the last 20 years. It's a fine photography gallery to browse through picture after picture, and pick up a copy of Ari's signed book Shot in Reykjavik for only 3900ISK if you want to take home a collection of them.
Text by Katrín Sif Einarsdóttir