17.6.2024 — 19.10.2024

The name of the exhibition FuturePast (2023) references a work of art by Kristin E. Hrafnsson (b. 1960). Part of that work features the following words: Framundan: endalaus fortíð/Ahead: endless past. The lettering indicates that it has been written by a small child. Another part of the same work is Að baki: endalaus framtíð/ Behind: endless future, which concludes the exhibition. In this case the lettering has been written by an aged but skilled hand towards the end of a lifetime. The sentences are written by real people, at opposite ends of their lives. Who are we? may be asked. Are we the same people all our lives?  

The exhibition is held on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Iceland. Works have been selected from the collection of the National Gallery of Iceland, by artists who address such concepts as autonomy and national identity, and what it means to be a nation. Is the nation the same now as it was 80 years ago?  Does it change, as a person changes over the course of their life?  

The exhibition includes, for instance, works by Ólöf Nordal (b. 1961), who has turned her attention to Icelandic culture and Icelanders‘ national identity. In her series Das Experiment Island (2012) she scrutinises an extensive collection of tissue samples collected by Dr. Jens Pálsson (1926–2002), a professor at the University of Iceland, who pursued anthropological research on living Icelanders in the latter half of the 20th century.

The video work Nýlendan/Colony (2003) by Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976) may be said to strike a different note in the exhibition: we see an Icelander, played by the artist himself, being flogged by a drunken Danish colonial ruler.

The sculpture Höfrungahlaup/Leapfrog (1983) by Ragnar Kjartansson (1923-88) shows children at play; it draws the observer‘s attention to the area outside the building, where another work by the same artist is on display: Memorial to Ísafjörður Mariners. The work was consecrated 50 years ago, in 1974. It depicts two mariners, one young, the other old, hauling in a fishing net. On the plinth is the inscription: “In memory of those who are lost. In honour of those who sail out to the fishing grounds.“ In this work, and in the FuturePast  exhibition as a whole, these two opposites often come together: future, past – futurepast.

The exhibition will open on National Day, 17 June, which was chosen because it was the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson (1811-79), leader of Iceland’s campaign for self-determination in the 19th century. He was born at Hrafnseyri in the West Fjords, now part of the Ísafjörður municipality.

The exhibition FuturePast, held by the National Gallery of Iceland and the Ísafjörður Art Museum, is the first in a series of shows held in collaboration by the National Gallery and regional art centres.

17.6.2024 19.10.2024


Birgir Andrésson
Borghildur Óskarsdóttir
Guðjón Ketilsson
Kristinn E. Hrafnsson
Libia Castro & Ólafur Árni Ólafsson
Ólöf Nordal
Ragnar Kjartansson
Ragnar Kjartansson eldri
Roni Horn


Listasafn Ísafjarðar
Safnahúsið Eyrartúni
400 Ísafjörður


Ólöf Nordal
Das Experiment Island IV, 2012
LÍ 9438

In collaboration with

Treasures of Icelandic Art

The museum is open every day from 10am - 5pm.