Is this Lewis, Shetland, or Orkney? Nope: It’s the island of Videy, near Reykjavik. And these are not millennia-old monoliths but sculptures erected in 1990 by Richard Serra.
Called Afangar (“Standing Stones”), this is a site-specific installation of nine pairs of basalt columns ranging from nine to 13 feet tall.
Serra was asked to create a public work for Reykjavik but found inspiration in the wild and rugged terrain outside the city. Extracted from a nearby quarry, the stones are carefully positioned in an area of this small (.7 square mile) island, spread out to elicit wandering and viewing from different perspectives in a landscape that includes water, a working harbor, plentiful bird life, tiny beaches, a great expanse of sky, and windswept grass.
Uninhabited since 1943, this island had a population that peaked in 1930 with 138 residents. With archaeological evidence of settlement dating to circa 900 A.D., Videy has witnessed many changes. Over the years it has housed a monastery, wool mill, printing press, dairy farm, and fish factory. In addition to Afangar, now visitors find one of Iceland’s oldest stone houses (now a café-museum), its second-oldest stone church, and an installation by Yoko Ono called Imagine Peace Tower, a circular monument from which a beam of light sometimes projects into the sky.
Travelers on September’s “Fire & Ice: Iceland Natura” program will visit the tiny, pristine island of Videy. Led by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Pari Stave, an Icelandic art expert, visitors will discover Serra’s largest landscape project, meet local artists, and marvel at the aurora borealis.