Today, the Gallery i8 is a staple on the participant lists of the most prestigious of art fairs, as well as being highly acclaimed for supporting the development of some of the most salient Nordic artists on the scene – the gallery represents the artists Oafur Eliasson and Ragnar Kjartansson. But back in 1995, when the graphic artist Edda Jónsdóttir decided to establish a small gallery on Ingólfstræti 8 (hence the name of the gallery), in the center of Reykjavik, Iceland’s contemporary art market had yet to emerge. At the time, galleries mostly existed as artist-rented spaces for the purpose of just one solo- or group show; as soon as the exhibition ended, the space was given over to the next renter in line.
Since the gallery's first day of operation, i8's main stipulation was to make credible exhibitions through working only with artists whom they had hand-picked themselves. Soon enough, i8 realized that if it wished to promote recognition of the Icelandic art market in the rest of the world, the gallery must try to expand beyond the borders of Iceland; so, in 1999, i8 made its debut at Madrid's contemporary art fair, ARCO Madrid. Not long after came exhibitions at Art Brussels, Art Cologne, Turin's Artissima, and even at the mecca of all art galleries – Art Basel, at which i8 will make an appearance this year as well.
The once-ambitious idea has now developed into a commercially successful and internationally recognized concern; as it has grown and evolved, the gallery's number of employees has also increased. This is the reason why Audur Jörundsdóttir has joined forces with the gallery's director, Börkur Anarson – with their combined strength, the duo will continue to bolster the gallery's position in the world art market.
Arterritory.com contacted the new co-director of Gallery i8 to speak about both her vision for the gallery's further development, and any future plans.
With your position as the gallery’s new director, are you planning to introduce any changes?
I´ll be a director and work alongside Borkur Arnarson, a director and owner of the gallery. We will continue our work abroad and in Iceland. Hopefully, we will be able to expand our program of artists; however, we are not planning any major changes. There are interesting shows upcoming – the next one is a show with Margret H. Blöndal and Silvia Bachli, curated by Chris Fite-Wassilak, and then a show with Egill Saebjornsson.
How did your career at Gallery i8 begin?
I started working at i8 in 2005. First as a gallery assistant, and then moving on to taking care of exhibitions at the gallery. Since then I have worked on various projects at the gallery. For the last two years I have been working on cataloging the estate of Birgir Andresson, an Icelandic artist that passed away a few years ago.
You were also the editor of the book “11 Years: A Decade of Contemporary Art”, which was published in 2006 and reflected on the expansion of Gallery i8. What has changed since then?
We have started working more internationally, and we have started working with a younger generation of artists, as well as the more established ones. We have grown considerably since 2006; firstly, we have more staff and therefore, we have more resources to work closely with our artist on their projects. And we have a larger gallery space – in 2009 we moved to a new location by the harbor, in Reykjavik.
Where do you see the gallery in the next 10 years? In which direction would you like to see it develop?
I hope that we can focus more and more on working with the artists. We are also interested in strengthening the market in Iceland – at the moment, we mainly work with international markets. There is not a strong culture of art collecting in Iceland. I feel that this is about to change. People are getting more and more interested in art locally, and they see the benefits of collecting fine art. We also get quite a lot of visits from international art lovers that come to Iceland in search of art.
Gallery i8 could easily be named one of the most prestigious and internationally recognized galleries from the North. Where do you think its success lies?
We have been fortunate enough to work with excellent artists. We benefit from coming from an isolated place, because artists seem to be interested to come here and work and exhibit.