Reykjavikian graffiti

 By: Jim Bamboulis

Before I went to Iceland, I was told to keep an eye out for the graffiti in Reykjavik, it’s pretty wild and very creative.

What’s the big deal. Graffiti is graffiti. For me, it’s at best a passing fancy, anyway. I don’t pay attention to it unless it blows me away visually, makes a wicked symbolic message or takes me into the mind of the artist.

But as I kept learning more about Icelandic sense of humour and dry sarcastic communication style, I thought to pay closer attention to the awesome drawings on the walls.

Governments of major cities around the world feel that graffiti is a problem, including Reykjavik. But here, it’s a relatively recent urgency to crack down on graffiti. According to the City of Reykjavik, in 2008, 42,000 sq. metres of public space was graffiti’d. By 2012, it was down to 22,000 sq. metres.

Clearly, there’s a difference between lousy scribbles and planned works of kick ass art. I go to art galleries, stand, admire and celebrate works of art and try my best to experience and understand the artists vision. As much as I love the galleries, I also enjoy walking down any street anywhere in the world and seeing an artists vision, displayed and celebrated on a wall or side of a building.

To me, scribbles, although sometimes funny is vandalism at the end of the day. I mean, if I’m living in a house and some punk comes along and scribbles shit on a wall that I own, I’d be pissed off. It’s reckless, inconsiderate and ignorant.  I don’t believe in reckless vandalism and painting on a canvas you don’t have permission to paint on.

I doubt home or business owners gave permission for these to go down.

But when all the parties agree and permissions are granted, it can be a beautiful experience for everyone. It can beautify a neighbourhood, brighten it up, add charm, character and overall appeal. And there’s some really striking pieces that can be found throughout the streets of the capital. The attention to detail is amazing and I really felt the passion behind the artists inspiration to create their respective pieces. Here are some of the pieces that I saw walking around Reykjavik.


One last one. Not sure if this is art or a suit store advertisement. I didn’t see a suit store so I’ll assume it’s a how-to-tie-a-tie lesson on a wall.

Do you have any graffiti stories from Reykjavik? Did I miss a key piece?  Share your thoughts and share the love.

Happy travels!


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