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Ragnar Kjartansson – The Visitors
Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst

28.01. to 28.05. 2023

Collection Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst

The Visitors, a 9-channel video installation of the artist Ragnar Kjartansson, transports visitors into the peculiar universe of a historical villa on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. The starting point for this project – which is shaped by Kjartansson’s enthusiasm for music, his interest in sustained performance, as well as an emotional experience of art – are texts by the artist Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir that Kjartansson and Davíð Þór Jónsson have set to music. For The Visitors, he had the song jointly performed by several musicians from his own circle of friends in various situations in the 43 rooms of the Villa Rokeby. Each of the nine projections highlights one of the rooms and one performer – with one exception: Outside on the porch of the house are the inhabitants in the role of choir and sonic artillery. The individual scenes thus join up into a space-spanning, filmic tableau, whereby this unique visual and acoustic arrangement shows a complex portrait of the house as well as its (temporary) residents, movingly expressing the experiences of love and loss, separation, and reunion.

The Visitors can be read as a homage to friendship, yet it is also an ode on longing and loss. The Visitors is a reference to the title of Abba´s eponymous album that appeared in 1981, which was to be their last. Shortly after the publication the successful pop band broke up. In contrast, his work The Visitors brought Kjartansson international renown, and it was acclaimed by the press. For example, the British Guardian even described the work as the ‘Best Artwork of the 21st Century’. With The Visitors a work is presented that illustrates the role of the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst as a commissioner of new works and a collecting institution, on the one hand, and can be understood as an outstanding example of the unique working method of the artist, on the other.

Ragnar Kjartansson (*1976, lives and works in Reykjavík) last made an appearance in Switzerland with the performance titled Schmerz (eng. Pain) at Zurich’s Theater Spektakel (2022). The Visitors was produced for his solo exhibition at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in 2012 and has since been exhibited in many international art institutions – most recently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco and the TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Madrid (both 2022); V-A-C, GES2, Moscow (2021-2022); High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2021); the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston (2020); the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki (2019-2020). Kjartanssons’ works have been presented in prestigious institutions such as The Metropolitan in New York, Barbican, London and Palais de Tokio, Paris.

An Act of Friendship for our visitors

Admission to the three-part collection exhibition Acts of Friendship is free for all visitors for the entire duration of the exhibition from January 28 to September 17, 2023. Free admission also applies to the parallel exhibitions Ragnar Kjartansson – The Visitors and Pilvi Takala – Close Watch.


Artist’s Talk: Ragnar Kjartansson and Edek Bartz, 2012

Konzert: Ragnar Kjartansson & The All Star Band, 2012

Visitors' guide
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