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The Largest Privately Owned Art Collection in Iceland is in This Hotel
Going to #Iceland in itself is an adventure, it's an almost otherworldly place. One of the best ways to get a glimpse into Icelandic #culture is through #art. Luckily, the largest collection of art in the country is now being displayed in the hip Hotel Holt.
Hotel Holt in central Reykjavik is a rare find. Holt’s walls are adorned with original Icelandic art, representing the largest privately owned art collection in Iceland. The hotel, which touts a historical library, lounge, sitting room and bar, all of which are elegantly comfortable, also has the renowned Gallery Restaurant, which has to die-for cuisine and an award-winning chef.
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I stayed here during my stint in Iceland and fell in love with the place as well as the people who run and manage it. A home away from home as they say! I had time to take in some of the art, but the collection is so big, I didn’t have time to devour all of it. Here are a few sneak peaks to get you intrigued and be sure to check out our Hotel Holt review as well as its foodie arm on the main floor, Gallery Restaurant.
The collection was started by the founder Þorvaldur Guðmundsson and his wife Ingibjörg, the parents of the current hotel owner. They were lovers and supporters of the Icelandic arts, especially Jóhannes S. Kjarval (the scetches in the bar and several painting all around). As noted above, this is the largest privately owned art collection in Iceland and the only place you will find a permanent display of the same works in Iceland.
Only about 35% of the whole collection is on display in the hotel so you can only imagine how big it is. There is a trust with all three decendants of the couple so nobody can sell any of the paintings and there is a story about one of the grandchildren of Picasso wanting to exchange one of his paintings for Kjarval´s Dyrfjall painting which is in the restaurant (the black and white one on the left of the hallway to the kitchen). Another story is the big one in the library of the old woman with the birds flying overhead. That is the painters mother (Eiríkur Smith) and Þorvaldur had to use all his convincing power to buy the painting off him since he didn´t want to sell his mother. Þorvaldur promised to have it available to him always and Eiríkur is still alive and regularly comes to visit his mom.
There are also sculptures scattered around the hotel. Three of them, plastered on walls near the breakfast buffet, were sculpted to celebrate the last of the manuscripts being handed over to Iceland from Denmark. They were done in 1973 and one represents a man preparing leather for writing, the next one is an author writing on the skin and the third is of a small family sitting on a bed and reading them.