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Street art in Reykjavík: Wall Poetry

I’m a big fan of street art and don’t really understand people that are against it. The draw, for me, is not just that it gives cities and spaces more color and vibrancy but also the fact that it’s taking art out to the streets. Not everyone has the desire to go to museums and in some cases they’ve become so expensive that manycan’t afford visiting them, even though they wanted to go. You don’t have to worry about feeling out of place at a gallery or like a bull in a china shop when the art is part of your everyday surroundings.

There are  people that claim that street art not really art or that the subject matter is not inspired or important enough but the great thing about art is that it’s open to interpenetration. Personally I’m not really into artsy freestyle jazz (the fact that I don’t know what the genre or the sub-genre is called exposes me as a complete jazz noob and I promise never to talk about jazz again) but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist or that I have the right to tell anyone they shouldn’t be into it. Additionally I can, and do, appreciate the artistry of very talented jazz musicians even though I don’t completely understand their end product. I feel the same can apply to any art – even though you don’t necessarily like it you don’t have to dislike it either and you can appreciate it for what it is.

Having said that I cannot for the life of me understand how someone could not like the pieces in the new Wall Poetry series that are dotted all over the downtown Reykjavík right now because they are absolutely amazing. Beautiful. In my humble opinion of course.

Wall Poetry is a collaboration between Iceland Airwaves, a fine local music festival that takes place in Reykjavík the first week of November each year, and Berlin’s Urban Nation. With this project, which was curated by Yasha Young, the aim was to get creative minds from different genres (music and street art)  to collaborate and “encourage artistic and creative exchange far beyond the inside of a gallery or the recording studio.

Here you can learn more about Wall Poetry.

Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Back of Gamla Bíó: Li Hill with John Grant, inspired by the song “Pale Green Ghosts” by John Grant
Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Laugavegur 66: D*FACE and Agent Fresco inspired by Laxdæla Saga
Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Hverfisgata 42: Ernest Zacharevic with Dikta, inspired by the song “We’ll meet again” by Dikta
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Grandagarður 14: Tankpetrol with Gus Gus, inspired by the song “Over” by Gus Gus
Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Skúlagata 4: Evoca 1 with Saun and Starr, inspired by the song “Gonna Make Time” by Saun and Starr
Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Hólmaslóð 2: Telmo Miel with Mercury Rev, inspired by the song “Moth Light” by Mercury Rev
Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Corner of Vesturgata and Norðurstígur: DEIH XLF with Vök, inspired by the song “Waterfalll” by Vök
Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Laugavegur 23: Caratoes and Ylja, inspired by the song “Óður til móður” by Ylja
Wall Poetry 2015 Reykjavík
Laugavegur 35: Elle with Úlfur Úlfur, inspired by the song “Tuttugu og Eitthvað” by Úlfur Úlfur

Missing on this list is the collaboration between Ugly Brothers and Gísli Pálmi, inspired by the song “Blank” by Gísli Pálmi but it was not ready at the time this post was written.

Experience Wall Poetry for yourself

All the photos in this post were taken by me on my walk around Reykjavík yesterday. I had heard about this project and wanted to see it for myself so I made it my mission to see them all at one go to really get into the experience. Doing so I noticed that this is a great way to experience the city and I would recommend you you do your own little self-guided Wall Poetry walking tour. To make it easier for you, I marked all of the murals on the map below, with a suggested itinerary and other places you might want to hit on your way. I also added some good places to get a snack on the way because you’re on vacation after all and you deserve to treat yourself!

I suggest you start your walk at the Ugly Brother’s piece next to Austurvöllur square. The walk will take you just over an hour but I would suggest you allocate at least two hours so you can check out everything you see on the way and listen to the music without feeling rushed. If you have a bus pass or a Reykjavík Welcome Card you can also take bus number 14 from Grandakaffi to Lækjartorg to save some time. Just keep in mind that you will miss most of the charming old harbor that way.

Below the map you will find a Spotify playlist with all the songs that inspired these pieces. I would suggest you download it to your phone and take it with you on your walk.

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  1. Another big thanks, Auđur. We’re in the middle of our month visit and have found locating all the wall art an interesting pasttime. I think it complements the sculpture/statues we see everywhere. We were walking around Grandi the other day and found Gus Gus quite by accident. The map will help. Now to locate the jazz venues!

  2. Thank you very much for posting this! We plan on taking this path when we visit for NYE! My husband and I are fans of Banksy and are looking forward to seeing others!

    Sandra and Gavin

  3. Can you translate the sentence at the bottom of the vampire one? I tried using Google but the first and fourth words I couldn’t get.

    1. It’s from an Icelandic saga (Njálssaga) and it means “I was worst to those I loved the most”

    2. I treated them worst who I loved the most .

  4. Thank you so much for this amazing post. I love Street Art too and look for it in every city I go to. I agree with you that it makes art accessible to those who can’t go to museums and it starts a spontaneous dialogue in an urban environment that wouldn’t happen in a gallery. I’m going to be in Iceland next month and I will be following your tour!

  5. Hi – we are coming to Reykjavik in June and love street art, I was just wondering if your walk and the images featured above will still be there in June? Are there any other locations where street art is often able to be found? Many thanks for your advice.

    1. Your guess is as good as mine – I haven’t heard any plans about painting over it though 🙂

  6. This is awesome! Auður, do you happen to know who someone could contact if they were interested in painting a mural? Maybe not for this festival, but in general? I’m not from Iceland but I’ll be there for a month in June 2017 and I would love to get in touch with someone who might know of a free wall. Mahalo! – Boz

    1. I think your best bet would just to seek out local street artists and try to connect with them. I’m just an admirer when it comes to the street art, don’t know so much about the particulars.

  7. Hi Auður,

    Thanks for this beautiful post. I am headed to iceland in Mar 2017, do you know if the art works are still there? Or is there any other particular street/area you would reocmmend exploring? Thanks again

    1. Yes, this art work is still there and this year the added more murals to this series so there are more of them. Haven’t had time to update the map yet 🙂

  8. This map was so helpful when I was there for Airwaves 2015. I’ll be back in December and wondered if you have a similar map for the 2016 Wall Poetry murals? Thanks.

  9. Hi Auður,

    I’ve followed your blog for a long time, and just visited Iceland for the first time with my husband a few weeks ago. We both LOVED the street art in Reykjavik and I wish I had remembered this post so we could have followed your map and music suggestions. We’ll just have to go back! 😀 Thank you for your terrific blog and insightful posts – they’re a joy to read and a big part of our deciding to visit your beautiful country.

    1. Post comment

      Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I’m glad to hear I was able to help make your trip to Iceland more enjoyable 🙂

  10. Hello,
    Fantastic report and photos.
    Nice ideia for your map and playlist.
    Do you have for 2016?

    Nuno

    1. Post comment

      Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Nuno,

      Unfortunately we were super busy last year at airwaves time, and didn’t do a post on it, but you can read about it and see a map here: http://icelandairwaves.is/wall-poetry/
      I really like some of the ones done last year!

  11. Thanks I was looking for somethi g like this for awhile!