Shoplifter. Photo: Axel Sig.

Shoplifter to Represent Iceland at 2019 Venice Biennale

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, the Brooklyn-based artist who goes by the name Shoplifter, has been selected to represent Iceland at the Fifty-Eighth Venice Biennale, which will take place from May 11, 2019 to November 24, 2019. Birta Guðjónsdóttir, the chief curator at the National Gallery of Iceland in Reykjavík, will curate the pavilion.

Known for her large-scale installations, sculptures, and performances, Arnardóttir is obsessed with hair, and both artificial and human hair feature prominently in her work. “I find it fascinating that we have this forever changing ‘vegetation’ all over our bodies, which we have to groom and tame,” Arnardóttir said in an interview with Infringe. “Hair is a remnant of the wildness that we possess, and one of the few things that survives our existence. It’s like a shield, or alternatively it can be a way of showing yourself to the world.”

Arnardóttir experiments with hair by dying it a rainbow of colors and by brushing, weaving, plaiting, and even melting it to create humorous works that range from oddly shaped organic sculptures to massive wall murals. For the upcoming biennial, the artist will transform the pavilion into a sort of cave, where hair will completely engulf the walls. In addition to the colorful fibers, Arnardóttir has commissioned the country’s legendary rock band HAM, whose frontman is a former member of Iceland’s parliament and a former Reykjavík city councilman, to compose music for the installation, which will be played on a loop.

Commenting on the opportunity to make new work for the exhibition, Arnardóttir said: “I’m really happy about this. It’s like getting to the Olympics of art. The Icelandic Pavilion always draws attention, and I do not intend to change that.”