Víkingur Ólafsson Nominated for BBC Music Magazine Award

Pianist Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson.

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson has been nominated for the 2019 BBC Music Magazine Awards. RÚV reported first.

Víkingur’s album Johann Sebastian Bach has been nominated in the instrumental music category of the awards. The album has enjoyed a warm reception since its release last year, charting on NPR’s list of the top 50 albums of 2018, where Víkigur’s interpretations were praised as “personal, poetic, and precise.” One track on the recording made it on the New York Times’ list of Top 25 Classical Music Tracks of 2018, where Joshua Barone hailed Víkingur as “a master of finding and exploiting unexpected pockets of musicality.”

The BBC Music Magazine Awards nominees are selected from among some 200 albums that the magazine has awarded five stars over the preceding 12 months. The winners are decided by public vote, which is open to all until February 19.

Uproar Over Nude Paintings at Central Bank

Central Bank of Iceland

The Central Bank of Iceland’s recent decision to take down two paintings by Gunnlaugur Blöndal featuring nude women has caused an uproar. Vísir reports that the decision was spurred by complaints from employees, who considered the artwork and its placement inappropriate. Artists and art enthusiasts have criticised the decision as prudish, lamenting that the work has been placed in storage and out of view.

Puritanism and pornography

Though it is not clear exactly which two paintings have been removed from the Central Bank’s walls, one of them is believed to be the picture seen below:


The Federation of Icelandic Artists sent a written statement to the Central Bank, criticising the decision to take down the paintings and place them in storage. Erling Jóhannesson, the federation’s president, criticised what he called the bank’s “prudishness and puritanism.” Erling says the human body is a timeless subject of art which can represent many concepts, “but if you don’t have the judgement to look deeper, everything changes into pornography.”

Artist and research professor Guðmundur Oddur Magnússon agrees with Erling. “You may as well put half of art history into storage,” he remarked. “The human body, both male and female, has long been the subject of artists.”

Based on equality, not taste

Stefán Jóhann Stefánsson, an editor at the bank, stated the decision to take down the works was made after careful deliberation. “This debate has a long story behind it and has come up before.” Stefán added: “Taking into consideration the gender equality policy, anti-bullying policy, and harassment, the decision was made to respond to these suggestions.” The decision is not based on artistic judgement of the works, according to Stefán.

Stefán explained that one of the paintings was hung behind a superior’s desk. “Employees have expressed the opinion that women shouldn’t be required to discuss issues with male superiors with paintings of naked women in front of them.”

Paintings exhibited next month

Many have suggested the bank sell the paintings or donate them to the National Gallery so they can be enjoyed by the public. Stefán says both works will be exhibited on Reykjavík’s upcoming Museum Night. “The fact that the pictures are no longer locked up in certain offices creates the opportunity to show them to the public. The decision had been made to display these pictures at the Central Bank on Museum Night next February 8, and this debate has not changed that.”

Aron and Hekla Most Popular Baby Names

Reykjavík baby

The most popular baby names given in Iceland last year were Aron and Hekla, RÚV reports. According to the National Registry’s data, 30 boys were given the name Aron in 2018, with the next most popular name being Kári, given to 22 boys. The third most popular boys’ name was Brynjar, followed by Alexander, Óliver, Daníel, Guðmundur, Emil, Jóhann, and Jökull.

Fifteen new-borns were named Hekla last year, making it the most popular girls’ name, with Embla a close second, given to 14 girls. Anna and Emilía were next in popularity, followed by Alexandra, Bríet, Júlía, Sara, Andrea, and Freyja.

The most popular given names in 2017 were Emilía and Alexander, showing a shift in preference between the years.