“I like taking something not worthy of being art and transforming it.” | Artist Shoplifter

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“I like opposites. And I like exaggerations.” Meet Islandic artist Shoplifter, who for more than 25 years has lived and worked in New York and is known for her immense landscapes of artificial hair. In the same tradition, she lately has focused on producing a range of hairy smilies.

“I am fascinated by human behaviour and popular culture and this extreme use of the emoji. And how it has become such a strong symbol of expression now that we are communicating so much digitally. There is so much to be read into every emoji.”

Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir (b. 1969), alias Shoplifter, is one of Iceland’s leading contemporary artists. Working with synthetic and natural hair, her sculptures, murals and site-specific installations explore themes of vanity, self-image, fashion, beauty and popular myth. “I like taking something that is dismissed and not worthy of being art and transforming it, manipulating it and taming it into becoming beautiful works of art.”

For Shoplifter, hair is the ultimate thread that grows from our body. Hair is an original, creative fibre, a way for people to distinguish themselves as individuals, and often an art form. Humour plays a significant role in her life and work, sometimes subtly, but at other times taking over.
“The value of art and culture is to keep us hanging on by a thread. To create a relief. The world would be even grimmer if we took that out of the equation.”

Shoplifter represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 2019, and her installation Chromo Sapiens opened at the Icelandic Pavilion in May 2019 in Venice, Italy. The installation later travelled to Iceland, opening at the Reykjavik Art Museum in January 2020. Lately, Shoplifter has created her own permanent art venue, Höfuðstöðin, located in former army barracks in Reykjavik, where Chromo Sapiens now has found a permanent home.
Other recent work includes solo exhibitions at Nordatlantens Brygge in Copenhagen (2021), Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm, Sweden (2020), The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia (2020), Kiasma – The Finnish National Gallery (2019), the National Gallery of Iceland (2017), the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2017) and the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art in Australia (2016). Notable projects and awards include her large window installation created in collaboration with the art collective assume vivid astro focus (avaf) for MoMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York (2008), The Nordic Award in Textiles and The Prince Eugen Medal for artistic achievement from the King and Royal Crown of Sweden (2011).

Shoplifter was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in her studio in Brooklyn, New York, in March 2022.

Camera: Sean Hanley
Edited by Signe Boe Pedersen
Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner

Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022

Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.

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