Icelandic MP: Why Support Artists? Skip to content

Icelandic MP: Why Support Artists?

asbjorn-ottarsson_althingiWhen MPs discussed the 2011 budget bill in parliament on Wednesday, MP for the Independence Party Ásbjörn Óttarsson said he didn’t understand why artists were being supported, asking: “Why can’t they get a job like normal people?”

The new budget bill has caused many disputes because it calls for extensive cutbacks. For example, contributions to most of the arts will be reduced in 2011, reports.

However, ISK 500 million (USD 4.5 million, EUR 3.2 million) will go towards Harpa, the new concert and conference hall at Reykjavík harbor. Óttarsson said he couldn’t stand the concert hall.

Following Óttarsson’s comments about the arts, he was invited to a meeting with the Association of Icelandic Artists (BÍL), which, according to, he decided to attend.

A statement from the association said there is dire need to inform the country’s democratically-elected representatives about the work and situation of artists.

Record producer Baldvin Esra Einarsson, who runs the label Kimi Records, encourages BÍL in a formal letter to go on a one-day universal strike to remind people of the importance of art, as stated on

He said the proposal was not directly spurred by Óttarsson’s comments; he has simply grown tired of the annual discussion of how it is a waste of money to support artists.

Óttarsson has since publicly apologized for his words. He said that he respects the work of artists although he is not in favor of the state paying their salaries, as stated on

During the budget debate on Wednesday, Oddný Hardardóttir, MP for the Social Democrats and chair of the parliament’s Budget Committee, said it must be prevented that towns outside the capital region suffer from the cutbacks.

Click here for further news of the budget bill and here to read more about Óttarsson.

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