Art farming in Denmark
Near Mols, on a small peninsula on the east coast of Jutland, Denmark, there stands an empty farm, its large barns and outhouses vacant and lifeless. But this can’t be said of the person showing me around; he is anything but. With his long hair and beard, Icelandic native Gunnar Tor Nilsen, looks like Santa Clause’s sexier and much younger brother. If his dream will come to fruition, this farm, or bondegård as the Danish call it, will be soon filled with artists from all over the world, working on the farm and doing their artwork.
Quickly it becomes apparent that this is a visionary, bursting with enthusiasm and energy when he describes the ideas and vision, for the place. “It’s important to have a good kitchen; the kitchen is always the heart of any house. My mother taught me that,” says Gunnar. The only catch is he has to raise the funds; 96,000 dollars to be exact, to buy this farm and make his dream a reality. And he’s on his way; through the webpage www.gofundme.com, he has already raised 415 dollars!
But how did Gunnar come up with this idea in the first place? “I’ve wanted to do something along these lines for awhile,” he says while walking, talking and drinking coffee at the same time. “The idea is for the farm to be completely sustainable with time. We will provide housing and workspace and instead the artists will pay their fare by fixing up the place and growing vegetables and so forth. The idea is that everybody leaves behind some kind of work, which with time will grow into a collection. I want this to be a place where people come and create something positive together. And I believe it is easily possible, it’s just a matter of getting more people on board, one at a time. And the small matter of raising 95,625 more dollars,” he says and laughs with his contagious laughter.
Gunnar tells me that he doesn’t like to “do nothing”, and I believe him. I almost regret having asked him what his background is because of the length of the list. His CV must be a mile long.
In just the last couple of years he has worked on Hollywood movies in Iceland (after filming Noah in Iceland, Russell Crowe sent him a wax riding coat he used in the film 3:10 to Yuma), he’s been a fisherman in Norway, a photographer (he received his master’s degree in photography with Jakob and Weiland in Denmark), and, oh yes, he also had a book publishing company. And that is just in the past few years. He sure does not like to do nothing.
“When I was a kid I spent all my summers on a farm in the north of Iceland. I loved every minute of it, chasing the lambs, fixing fences, whatever needed to be done. And that has always been a part of me and has followed into my artistic work. I have done a private exhibition consisting only of tussocks, little grass cushions that you often find in the Icelandic countryside, and made a book about fishermen. I guess I am two persons; one is an artist and the other a laborer or farmer. This project is about combining the two in a way.”
We walk around the premises and Gunnar shows me the biggest building which will function as the artist’s workspace if enough people chip in. “I really love the light in here and I hope this will all be buzzing with people before too long. It’s a shame to see it all empty like this.” On the drive back he invites me to the next of his, allegedly legendary, grill parties where he roasts a whole pig! “Last time we had about 50 people; these are some of my favorite times, a garden filled with people and a big pig roasting on an open fire,” and then comes that contagious laugh again. I hope Gunnar Þór’s dream will come true; he’s convinced me at least. When we say goodbye I promised him my support and now he is 40 dollars closer to his dream with only 95,585 dollars to go.
Anybody can chip in for this project. Go to Gunnar’s gofundme-page and help him make his big Art Farm dream a reality.
By: Gústav Hannibal Ólafsson
Photos: Gísli Dúa Hjörleifsson