The art world did a collective double take when Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, the Icelandic artist also known as Shoplifter, debuted Chromo Sapiens at the 2019 Venice Art Biennale. “Dr. Seuss on LSD,” she replied matter-of-factly when we asked her to describe the monumental installation, best described as an immersive cave of synthetic neon hair extensions. “Think hyper-nature, multisensory environment that’s also a colossal, huggable puppet. Imagine being cuddled by a giant teddy bear,” Shoplifter told us when Chromo Sapiens debuted. “I like making art that brings people together.”
After a successful Biennale run, Chromo Sapiens went on view temporarily at the Reykjavik Art Museum but will soon receive a permanent home at Höfuðstöðin, an arts and culture destination slated to open in the Icelandic capital this August. According to the Kickstarter, Höfuðstöðin will occupy a building near the lush valley Elliðaárdalur that once housed World War II barracks, but afterward found use as a potato nursery. Once renovated, the main attraction will expectedly be Chromo Sapiens, but Shoplifter envisions an all-encompassing art and culture center with multi-purpose spaces that will host events such as workshops, concerts, and lectures. Much of its interior decor, including a main lounge area, will be made from locally recycled plastic from Plastplan, a local plastic recycling company.
Höfuðstöðin will become a community nexus that offers rejuvenating experiences for the mind, body, and soul. Shoplifter describes it as “an oasis, where you can enjoy culture and a coffee surrounded by nature. It’s a place to meet up in before or after an outing in the labyrinth of paths through the forest and riverbanks of the valley of Elliðárdalur.” Supporting this venture is none other than the Icelandic songstress Björk, a longtime collaborator who commissioned Shoplifter to create the distinctive hair sculpture that graced the cover of her 2004 album Medúlla as well as styles for her recent Cornucopia tour. The two are planning a fundraiser at the space later this summer.