Friday, February 22, 2008

Search For Artists and Dinner Invitation

I have just returned from the opening of the Streymið – La Durée exhibition in the National Art Gallery. It is the exhibition of the three artists – – Emmanuelle Antille, from Switzerland, Gabríela Friðriksdóttir and Guðny Rósa Ingimarsdóttir, from Iceland. For me there are two reasons to go to an opening of an art exhibition – first, to take a glimpse at it, in order to decide if I would like to write about it, and second, to make a contact with an artist, if possible, or if an artist is unavailable, with a curator. An art exhibition in Iceland is a puzzle – in most of the cases, you know nothing about thea artist, there is not a lot of information, even helpful titles are often missing or extremely hard to locate. So, it is crucial to have somebody who will be able to confirm your guesses.

Knowing all the above, I searched the internet for every bit of information (in English) about the artists of the Streymið exhibition, and by today felt more or less prepared to face their work. The opening was at eight in the evening and the crowd was buzzing on the first floor of the gallery starting from seven thirty. Due to the age of the artists, they all are in their mid thirties, and close connection of one of them with Björk, there were a lot of hip and trendy personalities there. I wished I could have done a series of photos “Guests of the exhibit”: the make-up, the choices of styles and colours begged to be immortalized. Plus, how often you can see a young man with heavily contoured eyes, skinny jeans, and a la eighties hair speaking with a proper, silver-haired lady?

It was endlessly entertaining to watch people but I tried to spot the artists. You think they would be introduced during the opening ceremony, but no such luck. The layout of the exhibition gave me some hints: the first floor was devoted to the work of Emmanuelle Antille, on the second floor, a hall on the left – to the work of Garbríela Friðriksdóttir, and a hall on the right – to the work of Guðný Rósa Ingimarsdóttir. It was logical to think that artists will be located near their work.

It was not hard to figure out Emmanuelle, she wore an uncomfortable look of a person who felt out of place in the sea of knowing each other people. I came up to her and hesitantly asked, “Emmanuelle?” Things went smoothly from here – after introduction and figuring out that she would be leaving tomorrow morning, I just got her email.

Then it was time to find the star of the show, a highly publicized Garbríela Friðriksdóttir. She represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 2005, created a video for one of the Bjork’s songs, published a book, so overall the Icelanders are very proud of her. It wasn't difficult to find information about her but I found only one photo, which wasn’t the best quality. We (my friend and I) looked at her creations, keeping attention on the crowd as well. Soon I detected a swirl of people, congregated around one particlular person. She was stationary while everybody else was moving towards her and exchanged kisses and pleasantries. She looked similar to the photo I have found on the internet. Using a break in the flow of the crowd, I made a bee-line towards her – my guess was almost right, she appeared to be a sister of the artist and I got a contact information from her. It is a pleasure talking to people here - as long as you are willing to make a first move.

Two out of three under 30 minutes in the crowd of Icelanders, not bad at all.

The third hall didn’t reveal anybody close to the photo of Guðný Rósa – there were similar looking women, but they were either too old or too young. After looking through her work we went to the first floor. There, standing among the crowd and sipping, finally, wine, I saw a woman in her thirties, who looked like she could have been her. Feeling slightly silly because of all my detective work, I approached her and she was indeed who I thought she was. Considering that she lives in Belgium, leaving Iceland on Sunday morning, and recently changed her email address, it was very lucky for me to find her.

My goal was accomplished and here comes an unexpected bonus. While we were getting ready to leave, I noticed a very friendly, slightly tipsy woman in her fifties, who had offered her assistance in finding one of the artists not long ago. (I knew she worked in the gallery because I spoke with her on Wednesday and she was very sweet and helpful) I stopped to say “good-bye” and “thank you”. She was thrilled to hear that I found everybody I wanted to speak with and after some questions invited me for dinner. Considering that I didn’t know her name and that we saw each other only once before, the following conversation was hilarious.

- Would you like to come to dinner one day?
- Yes, sure, this can be nice. (I got my card and offered it to her)
- My husband is a very good cook, what would you like him to cook for you?

Her husband appeared. She, reading my name from the card:

- Darling, this is Victoria, I invited her for dinner. Ask her what she would like to eat.

I tried to mention that perhaps they should think about dinner invitation, its date and time. She, without paying attention to it:

- We have a beautiful apartment on the seventh floor, gorgeous view; dinner will be great.

(Her husband)
– Yes, it would be good. How about Sunday? Let me write our address in you little black book.

(Mercifully, besides address and time, he wrote their names without surname though, no telephone number also).

- Great, dinner than.

So, what do you think, a dinner invitation from sweet but tipsy strangers, will they successfully forget about it tomorrow morning or should I worry about offending them by not showing up?

And they said the Icelanders are distant.

A glance from the street.

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