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Iceland Goes With Shoplifter for 2019 Venice Biennale

BY Andrew Russeth

Iceland has tapped Shoplifter, which is the nom de plume of Brooklyn-based artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, to represent her country at the 2019 Venice Biennale, a selection that has already garnered great headlines in the Icelandic press such as “Shoplifter to be Iceland’s Representative at the Venice Biennale Next Year,” “Shoplifter to the Venice Biennale,” and so forth.

Shoplifter, who turns 50 next year, made her name by using typically fluorescent, Kool Aid-bright hair (both real and artificial) and thread to build sculptures and installations that flow through and climb spaces, like vines, fungus, or some alien creature. Sometimes joyous, sometimes sometimes creepily disturbing, her work is almost always irrepressible. (On a slightly more subdued note, she also created the mask of hair that Björk wears on the cover of her 2004 album Medúlla, in a photo shot by Inez and Vinoodh.)

The Icelandic pavilion, which is staged in a temporary space every two years outside of the main Biennale grounds, will be organized by Birta Guðjónsdóttir, the chief curator of the National Gallery of Iceland in Reykjavik, where Arnardóttir was born.

Other recent Icelandic representatives in the Most Serene Republic include Egill Sæbjörnsson, who built a kind of trippy, troll-filled haunted house on the island of Giudecca, the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel, who converted a deconsecrated church into a mosque, and Katrin Sigurdardottir (another New York-based figure), whose intricate installation took the form of the floor of a baroque pavilion.

“I’m really happy about this,” Hrafnhildur said last night at the Icelandic Art Centre, where her selection was announced, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine. “It’s like getting to the Olympics of art. The Icelandic Pavilion always draws attention, and I do not intend to change that.”

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