Sirkus, a bar in the scruffy downtown area of Reykjavik, was demolished this spring after serving for nine years as a living landmark and the hub of the city’s alternative arts scene. Kling & Bang, a gallery run by eight enthusiastic artists, not only helped the owner save the bar’s façade and interior, but also resolved to bring it to the UK and re-erect it at Frieze Art Fair. In an echo of the travelling circus invoked by the bar’s name, this place of celebration and creation moved town for a few short days.
Kling & Bang was set up five years ago and has since hosted and collaborated with a wealth of renowned international and Icelandic artists, consistently presenting challenging works of art. But like many downtown institutions, not least Sirkus, its life has always been on the brink, waiting for the day the bulldozers come. After months without a roof, Kling & Bang had to move into new temporary premises earlier this year.
But change has come to be an accepted part of the Reykjavik art scene, and last summer Kling & Bang played on its transient existence by setting up temporary headquarters in Berlin. And now, instead of exhibiting in a white box, it is coming to London with its very own building, placing a Sirkus in the heart of the art fair. But ultimately what Kling & Bang will be bringing to Frieze is not simply a physical construction – an erstwhile façade gauchely painted with palm trees and a crumbling interior with its years of accumulated detritus – but the aura of the bar and the values it embodied. A programme of performances by artists, writers and musicians invited by Kling & Bang will take place inside Sirkus during the fair, bringing some of the character and atmosphere of the bar to the fair.