Sigurjón Ólafsson

  • Year : 1971
  • Height : 340 cm
  • Width : cm
  • Category : Skúlptúr
  • Sub-category : Málmskúlptúr

Höfði House Around 1970 the City of Reykjavík commissioned Sigurjón Ólafsson to make a sculpture to stand at Höfði House, the picturesque villa which serves as the municipality’s reception house. The artist was working at that time with blacksmith Gunnar Ferdinandsson, with whom he made this work. The exterior layer of the work comprises cut copper sheets, fixed on a sturdy iron armature, and the cavity is filled with concrete. The work was installed on a tall concrete pedestal to the right of Höfði House in 1971. The sculpture became perhaps more widely known than any other work by an Icelandic artist when it was seen on TV around the world in 1986, when a historic summit meeting, marking an important step towards the end of the Cold War, was held at Höfði House between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The artist himself never named the sculpture, but it was called High-Seat Pillars by art historian Björn Th. Björnsson, and the artist’s widow requested that it be known by that title. In 1992 the piece was damaged in high winds, after which both armature and exterior were renewed and the pedestal was repaired. As the title implies, High-Seat Pillars is one of Sigurjón’s variations on the theme of pillars (see Emblem of Iceland on this website), which evoke both ancient totem poles and the upright human figure. Figuration is particularly striking in this piece as the two upright forms, on either side of the central vertical piece, both stand on two feet, widening upwards to resemble stylised female figures, and have details such as fingers. And the top of the pillar is a tapered “head” with a gaping mouth or teeth. In view of this obvious evocation of the human form, the title of the work may be debatable. In terms of concept and form there is a clear similarity between High-Seat Pillars and Emblem of Iceland, made at around the same time. High-Seat Pillars differs from Emblem of Iceland, however, in that it does not comprise a cluster of separate pillars, but is an arrangement of two symmetrical, almost integrated, pillar shapes.

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