Past Exhibitions

Ragnar Kjartansson: Song

March 11, 2011 – September 25, 2011



Ragnar Kjartansson: Song is the first solo US museum exhibition of the work of Ragnar Kjartansson. 

A musician as well as artist, Kjartansson (b. 1976) has been drawn to the theater and performance since he formed a band in his teenage years. The exhibition includes a selection of video works from the last decade, as well as a newly created three-week-long performance for the museum’s Hall of Sculpture (on view March 10–27).

Kjartansson’s videos reflect an interest in music and theater and the personae of its performers, often coupled with extreme environments. The End (2008) features two musicians in a mountainous snowy landscape, while Satan is Real (2005) finds the naked artist buried to his chest in the lawn of a public park, playing a guitar.

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In addition to his video work, Kjartansson has become known for inhabiting galleries and more unexpected locations where he performs live, often for extended periods. For the 2009 Venice Biennale, he painted portraits of his friend, day in and day out, for six months, in a crumbling palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal. The ornate stone room was eventually filled with hundreds of oil paintings and the aggregate ephemera of days spent in each other’s company. A “social sculpture” emerged from the accumulation of painting, palazzo, friends, trash, musical instruments, and exhibition visitors watching the artist and subject at work.

Kjartansson’s approach wavers between a besotted optimism and a deadpan, sometimes unnerving, directness. Ritual, repetition, and an almost hallucinogenic reverie share the stage with humor, levity, and a charismatic impulse to entertain.

This exhibition is organized by Dan Byers, associate curator of contemporary art.  


Download the Ragnar Kjartansson: Song brochure.

Exhibition Credits

Ragnar Kjartansson: Song is the 66th installment of Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum series. Major support for this exhibition is provided by The Fellows of Carnegie Museum of Art, the Virginia Kaufman Fund, and the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, with presenting sponsorship provided by Rodgers Insurance Group and Motorists Mutual Insurance Company.  Additional support is provided by Sandeman Port. Support is also provided by The American-Scandinavian Association.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Installation Views