Nudes by famous Icelandic painter causes a scandal
The removal of two oil paintings by renowned Icelandic painter Gunnlaugur Blöndal (1893-1962), was removed from the Central Bank of Iceland after one staff member complained. Blöndal painted most of his nudes in the 1930's and 1940's. The removal of the painting has caused some uproar as it only features a bare breasted woman and because Blöndal is one of Iceland's most celebrated artists.
"Certain warning lights start blinking when people are offended by what we call classical imagery," says director of the National Gallery of Iceland, Harpa Þórsdóttir speaking to mbl.is.
The Central Bank of Iceland owns an impressive collection of Icelandic art which is displayed inside the building in central Reykjavik. The bank has also awarded important grants to artists throughout the years.
Blöndal's nudes are actually the painters most popular and valuable paintings. Upon hearing these news, the Icelandic association of artists sent out a statement criticising archaic puritanism by the bank authorities.
According to Þórsdóttir, nobody from the bank asked for advice or counsel from the National Gallery.
"The Central Bank take immense care of their art collection and there's nothing wrong with the bank owning artworks. And we support that large companies buy art for immense workplaces."
She adds that the National Gallery has actually borrowed paintings by Blöndal for exhibitions, including the "offensive" painting.
"Certainly these works evoked attention at the time but they have always been very popular. A good model painting by Blöndal is much sought after."
Yesterday afternoon a reply to a query by mbl.is was sent from the Central Bank from the secretary of the bank director, Stefán Jóhann Stefánsson. "Employees expressed their view that it was not acceptible for women having to enter the offices of a male boss with paintings of nude women in front of them. In accordance to our equal rights policy and our policy against harassment in the work place we responded in this manner. It has nothing to do with the artistic value of the painting and we place no judgment on these paintings. They were located in an area where they caused discomfort. "
He added that a decision has been made to exhibit the two paintings on February 8th during what is called Safnanótt, an evening when museums stay open until late at night with free entry for the public.