In a small alley off central Reykjavík’s main shopping street is DEAD Gallery, the storefront and exhibition space of Artist Jón Sæmundur Auðarson. Take a deep, deep breath, bow before the mandala of death, pass through the big red door, and you will find yourself in a small cosmos that is a galaxy away from the wonderland outside.
Due to the massive tourist boom of the last few years, central Reykjavík has changed drastically. There still exists, however, a handful of very special places that somehow manage to preserve what’s left of the city’s old magic. So, if you are seeking a genuine Reykjavík experience, look no further than Gallery DEAD.
The coexistence of death and life has been the fundamental theme of Auðarson’s work since he was forced to confront and conquer his fear of death after being diagnosed HIV positive in 1994. Subsequently, he created his most known body of work, the DEAD concept, which he encapsulated in the mantra: “He who fears death cannot enjoy life.”
Today, Auðarson’s work is primarily based on installations in which he uses an admixture of different mediums—such as paintings, sculptures, videos and music—to shock or seduce us into contemplating and accepting the futility of human existence.
In the DEAD Gallery, you will find talismans, paintings, old maps, records, mandalas and skulls, and an interior design laced with Tibetan Buddhism and Goth aesthetics. During a visit, you can purchase Auðarsons’s creations—from sculptures and paintings to records and screen print t-shirts—or simply strike up a conversation and take in the ambience.
The gallery is open at odd hours so simply drop by and try your luck. Look for an enormous butterfly mandala and DEAD written on the wall.