Scandinavian Pain and Ragnar Kjartansson at the Barbican Centre London

My husband shared excitingly that he had seen a new exhibition on at the Barbican centre called ‘Scandinavian Pain’. I had to tell him that this was in fact not the sign for the exhibition, but part of it, as installation art. The Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s new exhibition at the Barbican is set to surprise and intrigue you!

So back to the sign my husband saw, now installed above the Barbican Centre entrance at Silk Street, ready to be switched on on the 14th of July. I thought it was the sign for an exhbition too… But it got my attention and I went home and searched it up!

The installation reading ‘Scandinavian Pain’ is an eleven-metre long pink neon sign that Kjartansson first mounted on a barn roof for the Momentum biennial in 2006. Living in the barn for a week, he used images and actions to enact the stereotype of the suffering, Nordic artist. His neon work now belongs to the Moderna Museet collection.

In collaboration with the Icelandic Embassy the Barbican Centre will now exhibit the work of this internationally acclaimed Icelandic artist, including the ‘Scandinavian pain’ installation alongside live performance, music, film, painting, sculpture and drawing in this solo exhibition, the first in the UK to survey the work Ragnar Kjartansson.

‘One of the most celebrated performance artists anywhere’ New York Times

Born into a family of acting professionals and having grown up backstage at the Reykjavik City Theatre, Kjartansson’s work combines his experience of stage traditions with experiments in repetition and endurance. Clichés and motifs of Western culture, romantic melancholy and even his own conception, provide the personal and often playful subject matter of the artist’s emotionally charged work.

Ragnar Kjartansson
Ragnar Kjartansson

Having successfully represented Iceland at the 2009 Venice Biennale and participated in 2013 with standout works, Kjartansson is now at the cutting edge of contemporary performance art. The exhibition centres around the immersive and moving multi-channel video installation The Visitors (2012) and Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage (2011) a live performance full of romance and humour featuring ten troubadours singing for up to eight hours a day, every day for the duration.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s exhibition will be open from 14th July 2016 until 4th September 2016 in the Art Gallery at the Barbican Centre, London. Find out more by visiting

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