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21.04.2020

The Living Art Museum

The Living Art Museum (Nýló) is a not-for-profit, artist-run museum and exhibition platform for innovative and experimental contemporary art in Reykjavík, Iceland. The Living Art Museum is committed to presenting, collecting and preserving works by Icelandic and international artists and in engaging with the discourse on contemporary art practices.

Nýló was founded by a group of twenty-six artists in 1978 as the first artist-run, non-profit organisation in Iceland. It began initially as a collection to preserve and archive artworks by a younger generation of artists that were otherwise ignored by the art public and authorities at the time; the founders were a diverse group of artists at various stages within their careers, and mainly associated with the fluxus movement and conceptual art. January 5, 1978 marks the inaugural meeting where the Living Art Museum Association was established and the initial foundations for its roll were set in place. Since that founding year Nýló has maintained the original goal to create a platform for progressive exhibitions and critical discussions on experimental art practices, but has also remained inherently flexible as necessary within smaller, mainly volunteer-based organisations. Equal weight has been given to exhibiting and collecting works by both Icelandic and international artists.

On January 5, 2008 Nýló celebrated the 30th anniversary of its founding, marked by the publication of Nýlistasafnið / The Living Art Museum: 1978-2008. 

In 1981 the Living Art Museum Gallery was founded and Nýló became a venue for exhibiting art along with collecting. This new role took some prominence over collecting and helped to make Nẏlȯ a foremost venue for performance during the 1980s. Originally the collection began in a 30 m2, rented space at Mjölnisholt 14, Reykjavík. Nýló then occupied a 200 m2 ground floor space in an alley at Vatnsstígur 3b, where another storey was added in October 1983. In 1989 Islandsbanki purchased the building and terminated the lease, forcing Nýló to move the museum's holdings in a rented storage space at Þingholtsstræti 6. A year later Vatnsstígur 3b was purchased and Nýló occupied 560 m2 there until 2001. Between 2001 and 2004 the organisation had a brief stay at Vatnsstígur 3 and in 2006 moved to Laugavegur 26.

In early June 2014 the museum moved with its collection, archives and research facilities to Völvufell 13-21 in Breiðholt, a suburb of Reykjavík. For nearly three years Nýló had a temporary gallery space on the top floor of this location, in a former bakery.

In early 2017, the Living Art Museum moved to the second floor of The Marshallhouse, downtown Harbor area in Reykjavík. The house was a former herring factory and has been renovated by Architects Kurt og Pí. Nýló shares the building with Kling & Bang, artist run gallery and Studio Ólafur Elíasson.

Nýló focuses on contemporary art, with the aim of providing a base for artistic creativity and experimentation in the visual arts. Along with producing 6 to 8 exhibitions in the gallery space each year, Nýló also promotes artistic expressions in various forms such as performance, screenings, school visits and workshops to increase program variability. In this way, the museum promotes a critical approach to visual art, while opting to question and reflect on its own current direction and activities at all times. The Living Art Museum does not represent individual artists, but throughout the years has been indisputably important to promoting artists within a nurturing, supportive and non-hierarchical relationship. Nýló is a small institution with an inherent flexibility, which allows the museum to constantly reconsider and revise existing ideas and experiment with new solutions, while attempting to find ideal circumstances for the artists working within it.

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