The Sky in a Room
25 June – 3 July 2022
St Mary Magdalene Church, Tanworth-in-Arden
22 September - 5 October 2020
San Carlo al Lazzaretto, Milan
3 February - 11 March 2018
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson draws on the histories of film, music, theatre, visual culture and literature to develop video installations, durational performances (sometimes lasting hours or weeks), drawing and painting.
Staging become key tools in the artist’s attempt to convey sincere emotion and offer a genuine experience to the audience. Kjartansson’s playful work is full of unique moments: the dramatic and the banal come into conflict in a memorable way.
Credit: The Sky in a Room at St Mary Magdelene Church, Tanworth-in-Arden. Courtesy of Ikon, photo by Jack Nelson
Credit: Ragnar Kjartansson, The Sky in a Room (2018). Performer, organ and the song Il Cielo in una Stanza by Gino Paoli (1960). Originally commissioned by Artes Mundi and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales and acquired with the support of the Derek Williams Trust and Art Fund. Installation view as presented and produced by Fondazione Nicola Trussardi at Chiesa di San Carlo al Lazzaretto, Milan. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik Photo: Marco De Scalzi
Credit: Ragnar Kjartansson: The Sky in a Room, 2018. Performer, organ and the song "Il Ceilo in una Stanza" by Gino Paoli (1960). Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. Photo: Hugh Glendinning.
Following his participation in the Artes Mundi 6 exhibition, Kjartansson was awarded the Derek Williams Trust Artes Mundi Purchase Prize and commissioned by Artes Mundi and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, with support from Art Fund, to develop a new piece, The Sky in a Room.
Across a five-week period, for five hours a day, the inaugural performance saw a revolving series of organists/vocalists performing the 1960 hit song by Gino Paoli, Il Cielo In Una Stanza (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ at the National Museum Cardiff. As part of the work, all the paintings, objects and decorative furniture from the Art in Britain 1700-1800 gallery were removed, leaving just the 18th century chamber organ in the centre of the room (a documentation of this performance is available here).
In 2020 The Sky in a Room took place in the Church of San Carlo al Lazzaretto in Milan – conceived in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown which affected the lives of millions of Italians, especially the citizens of Lombardy.
In 2022 The Sky in a Room took place in the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Tanworth-in-Arden, in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside. The setting is profoundly appropriate for Kjartansson’s work – which is characterised by a sense of melancholy – as it is also the place where singer-songwriter Nick Drake is buried.
The commission was made with the generous support of the Derek Williams Trust and Art Fund.