A Tour of Reykjavík’s Street Murals

This September, my husband and I had our first stopover in Reykjavík on our way to France. While walking around the city, we quickly noticed an interesting subculture that we weren’t expecting to see here: street art. And there was a lot of it. So much so, that we started to photograph some of our favourites.

This one seemed innocuous enough. It’s instructions on how to tie a tie:

How to Tie a Tie mural Reykjavik

Many of the murals are due to a collaboration between Iceland Airwaves, a local music festival, and Urban Nation, based in Berlin. Entitled “Wall Poetry,” the ongoing project is a way of encouraging musicians and street artists to blend their crafts in order to create urban art in public spaces. The mural below is by Elle, with inspiration from a song by a band called Úlfur Úlfur:

Elle with Úlfur Úlfur mural

An artist by the name of Tankpetrol painted this one in the Old Harbour area. The inspiration was a song by a band called Gus Gus:

Tankpetrol with Gus Gus mural

Since this is a stand-alone building, with no other buildings in immediate proximity, the mural is only threatened by being painted over one day, or perhaps future demolition of the building itself. But many murals have been painted on the sides of buildings that are currently only visible due to active demolition/construction in Reykjavík.

Which means, inevitably, many of these murals will get covered up once new buildings are erected. The mural below is just one example of this. You can still see the imprint of the old building that was demolished next door. This mural was painted by Ernest Zacharevic with inspiration from Dikta:

Ernest Zacharevic with Dikta mural

This brightly painted mural might not last forever either, if the scaffolding on the building beside it is any indication of the construction boom happening in Reykjavík right now:

Reykjavik colorful murals

I imagine most street artists are fully aware of the temporariness of their work. But some of these murals are so stunning, it would really be a huge loss to cover them up. Just look at this one, for example:

Girl with unicorn and stars Reykjavik mural

This one, by an artist called D*Face, was one that particularly drew my attention, I’m not sure why. But isn’t that one of the aspects of great art; that it evokes some sort of emotion or visceral feeling? I do love the comic book aspect of the work too:

Reykjavík D*FACE and Agent Fresco mural

I love the serene oceanic colours and theme of this one by Raff. According to the date, Raff painted this one in 2012:

Reykjavik street art Raff 2012

Not all of the murals cover entire walls of buildings, either. Check out this smaller mural. I’m not sure what the symbolism here is, with a fox carrying a house on its back. But Icelanders are known for great sagas and storytelling, so I’m sure there’s a tale to tell here:

reykjavik fox and house mural

And if you’re really lucky, as we were, you may even catch an artist working on a mural!

Reykjavik mural girl

Discovering all these murals was an unexpected treat during our stay in Reykjavik. It really enhanced our experience and gave us something to seek out on every street we walked down. So if you’re ever in Reykjavik, keep an eye out for the incredible street art, fleeting as some of it may be!

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