Reykjavik Art Museum director takes helm at Western Gallery

Western Today staff

July 21, 2015

In September, Hafþór Yngvason, director of the Reykjavik Art Museum in Iceland, will start as the director of Western Washington University's Western Gallery and Public Art Collection.

The Western Gallery director is the principal curator of the university's visual art collections, chief of which is the acclaimed Public Sculpture Collection, comprised of 36 outdoor and indoor sculptures created by internationally known artists. The university also has noted collections of 19th and 20th century prints and drawings, a chair collection and a recently acquired collection of works by Northwest artists.

Yngvason was attracted to the position at Western by the Public Sculpture Collection.

“This is without doubt one of the very best such collections in the United States,” he said, adding that he has always been interested in showing art in common places where “people experience the work as part of their daily life.”

Yngvason sees the Western Gallery and Public Sculpture Collection as important catalysts for stimulating interest in art in WWU students as well as residents and visitors to the region.

“The gallery program has not only to respond to the community, it has to engage the community,” he said of Western Gallery exhibitions.

Yngvason has curated several exhibitions and large-scale public projects at the Reykjavik Museum, including Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower in Viðey, Iceland. He has written extensively on art for U.S. national and regional publications, and edited several books, including Conservation and Maintenance of Contemporary Public Art (London: Archetype Publications Ltd., 2002).  Before his appointment in Reykjavik, Ynvason served for 10 years as the director of public art at the Cambridge Arts Council in Cambridge, Mass.

“I think art on campus has other benefits by promoting understanding, creativity and critical thinking,” he said. “These are abilities that any educational institution is eager to develop in its students and art engages those abilities naturally.”

In 2010, Western received more than 175 works in various media by Northwest artists, a gift from Virginia Wright, Safeco Insurance, a member of the Liberty Mutual Group, and the Washington Art Consortium. Selections from this collection are on public view in the lobbies of the Performing Arts Center.

Previous longtime director Sarah Clark-Langager retired in August 2014, necessitating the search for a new director.

The gallery is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. For current exhibition information, visit or call 360-650-3963.