What is surely the world’s most remote art gallery is located in a small lighthouse on the windswept northwestern tip of Iceland. Known as Galtarviti, it can only be reached by boat or a four-hour hike across a mountain range that locals say is the home of elves and trolls.
Built in 1956 as a beacon for ships braving their way around the rugged headlands, Galtarviti has become popular with artists seeking solitude.
Profession: Freelance stage designer
True calling: Innkeeper of Icelandic art
Ólafur Jónasson, a 45-year-old freelance stage designer, purchased the caretaker cottages and the surrounding land, including the two brooding mountains that separate it from the outside world, 12 years ago – for the price of an old car. He then began turning it into a cultural destination. Against the odds, he is succeeding.
A wilder, more barren wilderness is hard to imagine; the raw, natural beauty has inspired several writers who have dwelled in residency. A growing body of music has been composed there too. Múm, an internationally famed Icelandic band, featured the lighthouse in a video after recording at Galtarviti’s basic studio. In collaboration with the Kling & Bang gallery from Reykjavík, 30 Icelandic artists also paid recent tribute to Galtarviti in an exhibition called
Echo of the North, staged inside the lighthouse itself. Most recently, artist Hrafnkell Sigurósson held an on-site exhibition for the 2012 summer solstice. Where nature and culture meet
Solitude, the risk of failure and …
TALES AND LEGENDS
During winter, Jónasson works in the capital Reykjavík, but in summer, home is the lighthouse cottages. “Galtarviti is a telephone- and Internet-free zone,” he joyfully informs guests. Not only is communication with the outside world not possible, it isn’t even desired.
For Jónasson, it is a pleasure to act as guide. Without exertion he clambers across the stony landscape. It is said that during one dark Icelandic winter, he even carried the small harmonium that stands in the guesthouse alone over the mountains. This is perhaps a tall story, but as in earlier times, before mobile networks, people sit around late into the night at Galtarviti exchanging stories that are fast becoming local legends.