I met Daria Sól Andrews, the curator and owner of Stúdíó Sól, at a warehouse in Reykjavík’s newly-christened artist district Höfðabakki. Its gravel-and-scrap-metal parking lot added to the area’s air of urban restoration, though I felt somewhat apprehensive as I entered the new art gallery.
I found myself in a no-frills entryway leading to a stairwell that spiralled around the arm of a crane, which hung from the ceiling as a sort of industrial chandelier. We stood next to a gargantuan print of a sun-bleached red grill, original work from Nina Zurier, the artist exhibiting. The crane that now hung ostentatiously above my head figured into the photograph as a sort of strange intrusion, lifting the lid of the grill several metres into the air. The photo wasn’t, however, an adornment to brighten the industrial staircase, but rather a work of art. After all, this was the opening night of Zurier’s exhibition (“INNFÆDD/NATIVE”) and the gallery’s official launch.
Daria Andrews has created what she calls “a playground for artists,” which acts as a sort of access point into the arts community. She’s fascinated by the work of young artists. Since the transition from emerging artist to established practitioner is often a rocky one—juried exhibitions are highly-competitive and few and far between—Andrews has set out to provide more opportunities, giving space based upon a common creativity.
Andrews is a current Master’s student of Art Curating and Management at the University of Stockholm, and a former student of Narrative and Image Studies at Berkeley, where she focused on power and persuasion in creative outlets. Her subject is cultural communication through the large-scale medium of an art gallery, and she’s set herself the challenge of flipping the very concept of the gallery on its head.
Stúdíó Sól isn’t a typical gallery space; Andrews refers to her gallery as “a home-based exhibition space” for one core reason: the studio is inside of her home, a lofted warehouse apartment in Reykjavík’s Höfðabakki area. While the live/work model is age-old (think: the Maison de Verre in Paris—part medical suite, part personal home—or Amedee Ozenfant’s Atelier, a studio above two residential floors), the concept is relatively new to Iceland, with the obvious exception of husbandry in Viking longhouses.
Andrews explained to me that her vision for the gallery was clear to her early on; in combining her home and her exhibition space, she wanted to create a place that was neither the antiseptic white of a contemporary art gallery, nor precisely a home with all of its clutter and confusion. Instead, she wanted to mould the loft into a place where people would “feel comfortable to engage with each other in a way that they wouldn’t be able to in a sterile environment.” There are no echoing white walls, no attendants dressed in black suits watching over the artworks. There’s no set schedule—the art gallery is open by request and for special events—and the exhibition space is intimate, almost small.
Andrews subscribes to a “flexible definition of space and place,” meaning that the way we traditionally view one genre of place—in the same way that we might categorize a genre of art—is malleable. A “home,” in this case, is also a public place; a “gallery,” a private one. This convergence of private and public life is what Andrews calls a “locus of…artistic dialogue and expression” where gallerist, artist, and audience convene in a deeply personal way. Formality falls by the wayside, giving way to community.
But transforming the definition of place isn’t Andrews only goal for the space: she embraces “the idea that exhibition is pliable” and intends to host all genre of artwork and artistic experiment at Stúdíó Sól: performances will take a place in the line-up, although Andrews has a predilection for photography as a medium, and the Zurier exhibition will be open until Sept. 15, 2018. The gallery itself tests the boundaries of categorization and classification within the arts, implying that borderlands can be shifted.
Her choice of the opening show–INNFÆDD//NATIVE, which focuses on the relation between impermanence and belonging–is a bold statement. The frontiers we stretch are arbitrary. Perhaps it’s a bit like saying water is wet, but a space that features change so prominently in its mission seems to be the ideal forum to introduce new artists, particularly those who may not fit into the typical nooks and crannies that art is relegated to.
Andrews explained to me that she wants to focus particularly on showcasing the work of young artists. An emerging artist’s entry into the art world hinges upon their ability to draw the attention of gallerists. In New York, artists often rent out private exhibition spaces to facilitate their own launches in the hope of getting noticed by curators or private collectors, but such strategies are often prohibitively expensive. Master of Fine Arts (MFA) candidates have the opportunity to display their work at funded thesis exhibitions that are specifically targeted toward the tastemakers of the art world. But independent and young artists without resources often struggle to gain access to the guarded world of exhibitions.
Stúdíó Sól, however, has an open submission period, which demonstrates Andrews practice: the studio welcomes experimentation with new ideas and mediums.
Perhaps embodying not only her aesthetics but also her ideals as a curator, the crane that hangs from the ceiling seems to be a symbol of Andrews’ goal for Stúdíó Sól: to create a construction site, where many hands create something new from an old concept, worn materials. The space isn’t merely a renovated warehouse; it’s a factory where the work must be completed, but the product itself is constantly changing.