The European Biennial of Contemporary Art

28 June 31 October 2014

St. Petersburg, Russia The State Hermitage Museum

Ragnar Kjartansson

Ragnar Kjartansson

Ragnar Kjartansson, Sorrow Conquers Happiness, 2014 
Photo: Ragnar Kjartansson, God, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna & The Living Art 
Museum, Reykjavik. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York & i8 Gallery, Reykjavik, 


Born 1976 in Reykjavík, Iceland
Lives and works in Reykjavík, Iceland

Vitebsk Station was one of the first train stations in Russia and a link between East and West. It derives its name from the famous city of the early twentieth-century Russian avant-garde. The station features a piano hall, now disused but wonderfully preserved, which will host an enduring, sorrowful concert in which the singer obsessivly and interminably repeats Sorrow Conquers Happiness. The work, staged over the course of a white night, is characteristic of Ragnar Kjartansson’s interest in mixing happiness with grief; tragedy with beauty; and misfortune with wit and echoes the Scandinavian and Slavic condition of sorrow. Under the current circumstances, it also becomes what the artist calls an “accidental” political act.

Ragnar Kjartansson trained as a painter at the Iceland Academy of the Arts but soon concentrated on staged situations and especially on durational performances, the endless repetitions, the performance of painting. Representing Iceland at the fifty-third Venice Biennale (2009) with The End, he arranged an old-fashioned painting studio in an old Venetian palace, where he resided for half a year performing the classical practice of portraiture, producing one painting per day. Kjartansson has exhibited worldwide and works in the contexts of the visual arts, music, and theater with painting, drawing, and video. In 2014 he premiered a theater play without actors at the Volksbühne in Berlin, and he recently opened a retrospective exhibition at the New Museum in New York.

Sorrow Conquers Happiness
Vitebsk Station
Zagorodny av., 52
October 2014