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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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