Hi there! 

I’m Valur, Your Friend In Reykjavik. Today I want to talk to you about the history behind Sólfarið or The Sun Voyager. 

Artist Jon Gunnar Arnason made this sculpture, located down by the seafront here in Reykjavik.

The History of the Art Work

The backstory of this artwork started when Reykjavik wanted to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 1986. The city council decided to carry on an artwork competition and commemorate the city with an outdoor piece of art. The Sun Voyager was the winning design. 

The artist described the sculpture as an Ode to the sun or a Dreamboat. He said it was “the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress, and freedom.”

This is probably why this sculpture was initially supposed to be further down the coastline and facing west towards North America. 

I think he wanted to remind us with his vision of the voyage of the Icelandic Viking Leifur Eiríksson or Leif the Lucky to find North America long before Christopher Columbus ever did.

But for some reason, the sculpture ended up facing North on this tiny peninsula, which the artist himself jokingly called, Jonssnes or The Peninsula of Jon. 

Sólfarið - The Sun Voyager

Sadly Jon died of Leukemia before the piece was finally entirely constructed in 1990, so he never saw his masterpiece unveiled. 

Some people had suggested that Jon conceived the work when he was preoccupied with death and argued that the Sun Voyager should be seen as a vessel that transports souls to the realm of the dead.

Like Greek and Roman Mythology, the ferryman Charon transported the newly deceased across the river Styx. 

The Design of the Voyager

As you can see, Iceland’s Viking heritage played a big part in the design, as it looks like a Viking longship made with stainless steel whales’ bones standing on a granite circle. 

The sculpture is massive (4,2 m x 8,8 m x 3,6m / 16.7 in × 34.6 in × 14.2 in) and reaches out into space that the sea, the sky, and the observer’s mind become part of the artwork as a whole. 

The Sun Voyager Experience

This sculpture is one of the most visited sights here in Reykjavik. It is only a few minutes from the Harpa Concert Hall and the Hallgrimskirkja Church. 

Sólfarið - The Sun Voyager

On sunny days, people gather around the sculpture to be delighted by the sun reflecting in the stainless steel structure with the view of the mountain range Esja across the bay. So beautiful!  

But it has not to be sunny to enjoy the magnificence of the sculpture while listening to the sea’s relaxing sound. 

The Sun Voyager Online Experience

I can’t welcome you guys here in Reykjavik yet, so I want you to enjoy this art masterpiece from your home country. 

Please have a look at our video and enjoy it! 

What do you think about The Sun Voyager sculpture? Is this a dreamboat, a Viking ship, or The Vessel of death?

Leave your comments below!

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Takk! 

Your Friend in Reykjavik