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Art Is at the Heart of This Modern Iceland Home – The Wall Street Journal



Entrepreneur and art patron Oliver Luckett moved to Iceland with his partner Scott Guinn in 2015, intending to take a break from working in California and perhaps work on a second book.

Instead, the couple went on to organize music festivals, establish multiple companies and transform their home there—one of Reykjavík’s most iconic properties—into a community arts hub.

“Iceland has such a humanistic side. We had a vision of creating a door for people,” says Mr. Luckett, 45, who bought the five-bedroom, three-bathroom, 4,760-square-foot house at Sæbraut 1, on the island’s seafront Seltjarnarnes location, in January 2016 for $1.34 million.

The home of Messrs. Luckett and Guinn is located on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula on Faxafloi Bay. It was built as a gift for one of Iceland’s most famous artists, Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval.


Bodvar Sigurbjornsson/ Borg

Facing the steely gray Atlantic, the austere, brutalist exterior of the four-level home belies its vibrant interiors. Its star is a cavernous glass-fronted living room, where walls are covered, floor to 16-foot-high ceiling, in artwork.

There is a life-size mirrored wolf sculpture by Arran Gregory, an acrylic on canvas titled Warhol, by ThankYouX, and a work by London-based artist and designer Daniel Lismore. The piece combines clothing, fabrics, jewelry and curiosities taken from the 38 full-size “sculptural warriors” Lismore made for his show “Be Yourself Everyone Else is Taken,” which Messrs. Luckett and Guinn produced at Reykjavík’s Harpa music hall as part of the June 2018 Reykjavík Arts Festival. Every piece of art faces a window.

“Scott and I love transforming spaces like this. There are all these cool moments,” says Mr. Luckett. As part of the remodel, the couple invested 12 months and $700,000 modernizing the 1969 house, removing eight rooms to make the interior layout more open and creating an entranceway with a clear line of sight to the main level and views beyond.

Mr. Luckett wears a sweater by Icelandic artist Shoplifter, who also made the rugs.


Axel Sigurdharson

Mr. Luckett is an author and entrepreneur who started and sold several companies, including a social media management company he co-founded with Ari Emanuel of William Morris Endeavor and Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Mr. Guinn, 31, is a music supervisor. Mr. Luckett has been collecting art for over 30 years, and it filled his California, Chicago and London offices, as well as the couple’s former Malibu home. The couple considers their collection the scrapbook to their lives.

The couple’s first visit to Iceland was in 2011 to work with the Icelandic musician Bjork on her album Biophilia. They kept coming back, and after touring the house, decided to stay. “Iceland values nature and creativity for the most part. It was exactly what we needed at the time, and opposite to L.A. in many, many ways,” says Mr. Guinn.

The couple opened up the kitchen to overlook the living room and ocean views.


Bodvar Sigurbjornsson/ Borg

Entrance to the “furry room,” filled with artificial hair, an installation by Shoplifter.


Bodvar Sigurbjornsson/ Borg

Their home has always been a space intended for art. It was built in the 1960s as a gift from the Icelandic people to prolific Bohemian painter Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval (1885-1972), but the artist had always maintained he would never move in, denouncing the atelier-cum-house when it was presented to him, fleeing the scene by taxi.

“He was already over 80 years old, and also quite unpredictable,” recalls the home’s architect Þorvaldur S. Þorvaldsson, now 87, who designed it as a place where international artists could live and work in the central sunlit space.

Other than two small arts events, including an exhibition of Kjarval’s work after his death in 1972, the house—Kjarvalhús, as it is known locally—wasn’t the home for art that Þorvaldsson envisioned until Messrs. Luckett and Guinn moved in.

In 2016, after packing 1,700 pieces of art into four shipping containers, Messrs. Guinn and Luckett used the nine months it took for their collection to arrive to host art events in the empty home.

This sitting room features a life-size “warrior” by Daniel Lismore and an original Kjarval purchased by Mr. Luckett for Mr. Guinn’s birthday.


Bodvar Sigurbjornsson/ Borg

The atelier’s huge sliding wooden window panels—installed by Þorvaldsson so artists could control the Nordic light—were transformed into artworks by Devin Liston, an artist who was staying with the couple. He was inspired by the work of contemporary artist Birgir Andrésson, known for his “word portraits” on top of Pantone colors that resembled the colors he saw in Iceland.

Messrs. Luckett and Guinn have painted every wall in the house from Andrésson’s Icelandic palette, the steely gray of the living room perfectly matched to disappear into the ocean beyond.


Sanna Mander

At its peak, the couple’s art collection in the house grew to 2,000 pieces. New additions included a room covered entirely in kaleidoscopic artificial fur by artist Hrafnhildur Arnardottir (AKA Shoplifter), who stops by to groom it whenever she’s in town, occasionally adding weaves or braids.

There is even an original Kjarval, which Mr. Luckett purchased for Mr. Guinn’s 30th birthday.

The couple is now selling the property, which is listed by Reykjavík real-estate company BORG for approximately $2.48 million. The couple say their move to Iceland and evolution of the house is part of a saga that is still unfolding. Messrs. Guinn and Luckett have relocated to Denver where they have started a company that sells Icelandic seafood.

“We love the house. And we love Iceland. But it deserves someone who’s going to be there more than half the year,” says Mr. Guinn. He describes living in their neighborhood and their daily strolls to nearby hot-spring-fed swimming pool Sundlaug Seltjarnarness like being at a resort.

The Luckett-Guinn home.


Bodvar Sigurbjornsson/ Borg

The high ceilings created a display space for the couple’s extensive art collection. It includes a blown glass octopus chandelier by Adam Wallacavage; Pixelated Woman by Brandon Blatt; dual-headed gold deer by Joshua Levine; a pink-hued panoramic featuring monkeys and cherry blossoms by kozyndan; and the work CHAOS/ORDER by CYRCLE.


Bodvar Sigurbjornsson/Borg

The couple want Kjarvalhús to continue to be a hub for art and artists who have a deep respect for Icelandic culture and art. The couple is even open to leaving the artwork in place as a loan. They are not sure whether the “furry room” will stay permanently, or whether they’ll re-create the installation elsewhere.

For the moment, the home is being used for its intended purpose for the first time. Surrounded by the couple’s art, local artist Gabriella Fridriksdottir, from whom they have bought pieces that fill one of the home’s guest rooms, is working on four new pieces, which Messrs. Guinn and Luckett can see developing live on their Nest Cam from their Denver home.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix



In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.

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Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.

1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery

In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.

Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood.
Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party

Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

3. Check out local performers

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Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.

4. Have some family fun

The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at or by calling 306-477-0808.

5. Drop off your hazardous waste

The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at

  1. Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring

    Little art gallery brings colour, connection to Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood

  2. Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon

    Persephone Theatre brings in community co-leads for new Artists’ Working Group

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio



Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.

The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.

“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”


Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.

Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.

“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.

“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”

‘We need a territorial gallery’

The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.


“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”

YK ARCC’s first home is pictured in 2011. Photo: Submitted
Casey Koyczan stands in front of a painting at a YK ARCC show in 2014. Photo: Submitted

Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.

The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.

“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.

That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.

“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”

“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.

“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”

YK ARCC debuted its mobile gallery in the summer of 2019. Pictured are board member Brian McCutcheon and artist Terry Pamplin. Photo: Submitted
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Art by Shelley Vanderbyl is displayed in Yellowknife’s mobile gallery in May 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A YK ARCC show in 2018, called Social Fabric, was held inside a former bank in the Centre Square Mall. Thirty-two artists were featured and 800 people attended. Photo: Submitted

Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.

“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.

“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.

“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”

‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery

In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.

The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”

“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”

Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.

“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”

More spaces that can host art are on the way.

Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.

Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.

As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.

YK ARCC staged an outdoor installation in 2017. Photo: Submitted
Rosalind Mercredi, first president of YK ARCC, at the mobile gallery. Photo: Submitted

“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”

Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”

“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.

“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”


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