Graffiti in Reykjavik – West Side Edition

In recent years, graffiti art has become more popular in Reykjavik. House owners regularly get artists to do graffiti works on their houses; Iceland Airwaves collaborated with artists and musicians to make the wall murals a few years back. Many of them are no more but there are still quite a few still standing.

In many cases, graffiti is illegal art, meaning it is done without the express permission of the walls’ owner. You will find that kind of graffiti in Reykjavik as well. Bombing, tagging, murals and everything in between is bountiful. However, this walk will take you to “legal” graffiti artworks. Works that have been commissioned and paid for. The artworks are both by Icelandic and foreign artists.

For more artwork check out this map.

Graffiti in Reykjavik – West Side

The walk begins at Ingólfsstorg, from where all Your Friend in Reykjavik tours start. Walk towards Vesturgata, which starts where the two old yellow and red timber buildings are by one end of the square. Vesturgata is one of Reykjavik’s oldest streets, and the name means West Street and, as the name implies, leads you west.

Phlegm

When you arrive at Ægisgata 7 (Ocean street – on the corner is the oldest house clad in corrugated iron), you turn right towards the harbour. Stay on the right side of the street, and you will see two large artworks on either gable of an old warehouse.

First, you will see artwork by Phlegm. He’s a Welsh-born Sheffield-based muralist and artist. Beginning his artistic career as an illustrator in his self-published comics, he has since become a famous muralist. The name refers to one of the four temperaments in ancient Greek medicine: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm.

Wes21 and Onur

Photo: Onur

Walking a few steps down the street, you will see an artwork called Heavy Stones Fear No Weather by Wes21 and Onur, inspired by Of Monsters and Men. It is the first of many collaborative works you will see on this walking tour. Music Festival Iceland Airwaves and Berlin Museum Urban Nation collaborated in 2016 for a Wall Poetry series. The music festival got the musicians, and the museum picked the graffiti artists. 

Wes21, or Remo Leinhard, is a graffiti artist born in Biel, Switzerland 1989. His artistic endeavours began in 2001 when he started showing interest in art. In 2009, he attended a design school, ultimately becoming a graphic designer.

Graffiti artis Onur, full name Onur Dinc, was born in Zuchwil, Switzerland in 1979. He’s active in the street art scene. He finished training as a painter, theatre painter and graphic designer.

Sara Riel

Turning right onto Nýlendugata (Settlement Street – named after a house called Nýlenda). On the side of restaurant Forréttabarinn, you will see an artwork by Sara Riel called Fönix (Phoenix).

Sara Riel was born in Reykjavik in 1980. She began her career as a graffiti artist in the Icelandic capital and has since gotten a master’s degree from Kunsthochschule-Berlin Weissensee in Germany. She is now based in Reykjavik and Athens, Greece.

Herakut

Keep on walking down Nýlendugata. On Nýlendugata 30, at Bakkastígur (Bank Street) corner, there is an artwork by Herakut.

Herakut is a German duo comprised of Hera (Jasmin Siddiqui) and Akut (Falk Lehmann). They combined their works in 2004 and names to create Herakut. Hera has a classic art education and a degree in graphic design. Akut has great experience in graffiti art and was a part of the renowned MA’CLAIM Crew along with CASE, TASSO and RUSK. 

Artworks in Grandi

Now you will have to make a small detour towards Grandi for two artworks. It is also an excellent time to have something delicious to eat, at the CooCoo’s Nest, for example, or Italian-style ice cream at Valdís or just simply check out Icelandic designs and artisan stores. Walk down Bakkastígur towards Mýrargata, cross the street and turn right. Turn left on the next street, Hlésgata and walk towards the harbour. Before you get there, turn left again and then at the end of the street, turn right onto Grandagarður.

Tankpetrol

On the gable end of Grandagarður 14 is an artwork by Tankpetrol and band GusGus. It is one of the Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaborations. It is inspired by the song Over.

Tankpetrol was born in Poland in 1982. Today he is based in Manchester, UK. He began his artistic career as a graffiti artist but is today known for stencil art. He uses different techniques ranging from stencils, typography and traditional painting to murals and fine woodwork. 

TelmoMiel

Walking down Grandagarður, turning right down Járnbraut and then left onto Eyjarslóð, there is another Iceland Airwaves and Urban Nation collaboration artwork. It is by TelmoMiel and Mercury Rev, inspired by their song Moth Light.

TelmoMiel is a duo comprised of Miel, born in Amsterdam in 1984 and Telmo, born in Rotterdam in 1989. They started their company in 2012 after six years of friendship. 

On your way to the next artwork, you will need to walk back to Grandagarður or Fiskislóð, where you will find the Whales of Iceland Museum.

Go past the roundabout and look left. On the gable end of a hotel, which is being enlarged, is another artwork by Herakut. However, depending on the final size of the hotel, it might be covered soon.

Guido Van Helten

By the petrol station, there are pedestrian lights. Cross the street over to Vesturgata. At the crossroads of Seljavegur and Vesturgata, you will find a mural by artist Guido Van Helten. The picture is of the grandfather of the owner of the house. There used to be two other artworks by him, where the Herakut artwork is now and the hotel is being enlarged. However, the building it was on has been torn down to make way for the hotel.

Van Helten is an Australian-born visual artist and photographer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts, majoring in Printmaking. He is now closely aligned with the movement of large-scale muralism across the world.

Juan Pictures Art

Turn to walk down Seljavegur, after a few metres you will come to a small tunnel which leads to a small back street between Framnesvegur and Seljavegur. Turn right on that small street and walk to the end of it. You will then find artworks on both houses at the end of the street both made by Juan Pictures Art.

Kristín Þorláksdóttir and Stefán Óli

Keep walking up Holtsgata to the crossroads with Framnesvegur. Turn right down Framnesvegur. On the corner house by Hringbraut, you will find a mural by artists Kristín Þorláksdóttir and Stefán Óli.

At the crossroads of Framnesvegur and Hringbraut, cross the street and turn left. You will need to walk for 5-10 minutes for the next artwork.

At the corner of Hofsvallagata and Hringbraut, you will see the next graffiti in Reykjavik, a colourfully painted fence belonging to Hringbraut 77. This artwork was commissioned by one of the house’s owners and is by Juan Pictures Art.

Kailash Youze

Turn down Hofsvallagata to the right and walk by the fence to get to the next artwork. When you arrive at Hagamelur, turn to the right. By Hagamelur 34, you will need to walk in the driveway to a backhouse. There you will find artwork by Kailash Youze. He began his artistic career as a graffiti artist and has since turned to paintings, drawings and using watercolours as well. Next door at Hagamelur 32, on another backhouse, you will find another artwork by him. 

Next, you need to go back to Hofsvallagata and turn left (towards the ocean). On the cornerhouse of Hofsvallagata and Melhagi (where Kaffi Vesturbæjar is), you will find artwork by Stefán Óli. The text says: Your name saved Nassima. It is referencing an Amnesty International campaign to have Nassima al-Sada released from prison, but she was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for fighting for women’s rights in the country. She was released in June 2021.

Harpa Rún

Turn onto Melhagi and then left on Furumelur. You must cross Hringbraut at the pedestrian lights to get to the next artwork. Turn right on Hringbraut and then left in Brávallagata. Follow the street, and after one left turn and one right turn, you should see a backstreet between the houses on Brávallagata and Ásvallagata to your right. There you can see non-curated graffiti, and a little bit further, there’s a mural of two white doves by Harpa Rún

Walk through that little backstreet to the other side. You should see the Old Cemetery in front of you. If you’d like, we recommend having a stroll through it. It is very beautiful. You need to find your way to Suðurgata now. If you don’t go through the cemetery, you should turn left when leaving the backstreet. Then to the right down Sólvallagata/Kirkjugarðsstígur. You will end up at Suðurata.

Turn left down Suðurgata and when you reach Vonarstræti (there’s a big tree at one corner of a small car park there), turn right. Then at the next crossroads, next to Reykjavik City Hall, turn right again onto Tjarnargata. 

Stay on the right side of the street. There’s an old cinema, now a theatre called Tjarnarbíó at Tjarnargata 12. There on a gable is an artwork by Juan Pictures Art.

Head on back the way you came, cross Vonarstræti and then you’re almost back to Ingólfstorg, where you started your West Side Graffiti walking tour. This concludes West Side Graffiti Walking Tour.  

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