Community-Centered Contemporary Art in the Heart of Hafnarfjörður (Museums in Strange Places S01 E08)

How does a contemporary art institution– places that are notoriously elitist–provide a thriving cultural center in a town’s that on the periphery of Iceland and the world? The Hafnarborg Centre of Culture and Fine Art is a contemporary art gallery and collection in the heart of downtown Hafnarfjörður, an old port town ten kilometers south of Reykjavík. With 28,000 residents, Hafnarfjörður is the third largest city in, and the Hafnarborg Centre, the only art museum in town, sees about 20,000 visitors a year. They take this responsibility as the art museum very seriously, and one of their goals is to create grounds for diverse cultural life in the town while putting on exhibitions that reflect contemporary trends and movements in the field.

After a cold, but sunny afternoon spent wandering around Hafnarfjörður’s old houses mixed in among lava formations, I sat down with Director Ágústa Kristófersdóttir to learn more about the Hafnarborg Centre.

The two main artists mentioned during the discussion of the collection are Elias B. Halldórsson and Eiríkur Smith. The new acquisitions mentioned are by Egill Sæbjörnsson, who represented Iceland in the Venice Biennial by letting two trolls turned artists take over the pavilion.

The music used in this episode is “Heim til míns hjarta” by Arna Margrét & Marteinn Sindri. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to watch the music video.

Full Music Credits: Lag og texti: Marteinn Sindri Jónsson/ Útsetningar fyrir blásturshljóðfæri: Eiríkur Rafn Stefánsson/ Arna Margrét Jónsdóttir, söngur/ Birkir Blær Ingólfsson, saxófónn/ Eírikur Rafn Stefánsson, flügelhorn/ Kári Hólmar Ragnarsson, básúna/ Kristófer Rodriguez Svönuson, trommur/ Marteinn Sindri Jónsson, söngur og píanó/ Tómas R. Einarsson, kontrabassi/ Hljóðupptaka: Róbert SteingrímssonEgil Sæbjörnsson

How to Listen to Museums in Strange Places

The Museums in Strange Places podcast is available on your favorite podcast listening platforms (Did I miss one you like? Let me know!):

About the Museums in Strange Places Podcast

Museums in Strange Places is a podcast for people who love museums, stories, culture, and exploring the world. This year, the podcast focuses on museums in Iceland.

Subscribe to Museums in Strange Places and you can expect fascinating conversations with Icelandic museum professionals, world class exhibitions, private museums in gas stations, an introduction to Icelanders and their knack for storytelling, and a unique window into the inner workings of museums on this strange but wonderful little island.

The podcast is hosted by Hannah Hethmon, an American Fulbright Fellow living in Reykjavík. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @hannah_rfh.

Photos of the Hafnarborg Centre

Hafnarborg Director Ágústa Kristófersdóttir

One of the two design exhibits discussed in the episode. This is the Mink Camper, custom designed and built to complement Icelandic nature.

Label in the camper design exhibit

Conceptual sketches for the Mink Camper

The camper design exhibit as seen from outside the Hafnarborg building

The exhibit on Japanese design

The old pharmacy building that houses the Hafnarborg Centre

Reading room in the Centre

Photos of Hafnarfjörður


  1. Thanks for this blog, it reminded me of on my last trip to Iceland. That time, I couldn’t able to visit icelandic art center or any other museums but, now I will visit it.

  2. Pingback: Söfn á undarlegum stöðum – hlaðvarp | Hafnarborg

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