Beloved Icelandic Artist Ragnar Kjartansson Gets His First US Museum Survey

The show features a 12-week-long performance.

Ragnar Kjartansson, God, 2007. Photo Rafael Pinho, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík.
Ragnar Kjartansson, God (2007). Courtesy of photographer Rafael Pinho/the artist/Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík.

Known for witty, often musical endurance art projects, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson has notched his first US museum survey, which will take place at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, DC.

Characteristically for the artist, the show will include a 12-week performance by area musicians. Woman in E (2016) consists of a woman in a sequined dress atop a gold-tinseled platform in a gold-tinseled room, ceaselessly strumming an E minor chord.

Ragnar Kjartansson, <i>Woman in E</i>, 2016. Photo Andrew Miller, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík.

Ragnar Kjartansson, Woman in E (2016). Photo Andrew Miller, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík.

Kjartansson has earned raves from critics the world over. Writing in Art in America, Gregory Volk called his multichannel video The Visitors (2012), featuring musicians performing at a mansion in the Hudson Valley, “one of the most enthralling (works) I’ve seen in years.” artnet News’s own Blake Gopnik pronounced his video A Lot of Sorrow (2013) “totally captivating.”

Ragnar Kjartansson, <i>The Visitors</i>, 2012. Photo Elisabet Davids, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors (2012). Photo Elisabet Davids, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik.

Among his other well-known works, the show is slated to include The Visitors along with Me and My Mother (2000), a video in which Kjartansson’s mother repeatedly spits in his face, and a series of 144 canvases, The End (2009), painted in Venice, when Kjartansson was representing Iceland in the Venice Biennale.

Born in 1976 in Reykjavik, Kjartansson has been the subject of solo shows at venues including London’s Barbican Art Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, and New York’s New Museum.

Ragnar Kjartansson, <i>The End—Venezia</i> (2009). Photo Rafael Pinho, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery Reykjavik.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The End—Venezia (2009). Photo Rafael Pinho, courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery Reykjavik.

“I’m thrilled to be in the canon of the Hirshhorn,” said the artist in a statement. “I feel a bit like a thief in the temple. To collaborate with those brilliant people is a kick.”

“Ragnar Kjartansson” will appear at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, D.C., October 14, 2016–January 8, 2017.


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