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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Sun Voyager Sólfar in Reykjavík

Updated: May 15


The sculpture Sun Voyager has its roots in an almost spiritual experience Jón had in Finland in 1985.
The sculpture Sun Voyager has its roots in an almost spiritual experience Jón had in Finland in 1985.

Everything about the sculpture Sun Voyager is fascinating. The Artist Jón Gunnar Árnason was a mechanic who left a successful career as a mechanic in his early career to become an artist. As an artist, he was a pioneer and a philosopher with a vision. In his life, nothing had a higher priority than art. He is considered by many to be one of Iceland's most remarkable sculptors and artists. Jón Gunnar was born in 1931 and died in 1989, only 58 years old. The Sun Voyager is part of The Sculpture and Shore Walk by the shoreline in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland.

Dreaming about a tour to the sun
Dreaming about a tour to the sun

A winner of a 1986 competition for an outdoor sculpture for the district of Vesturbær

Evening in Reykjavik by the Sun Voyager
Evening in Reykjavik by the Sun Voyager

In 1986 the city of Reykjavík celebrated its 200th anniversary. To honor the event, residents of the Vesturbær district launched a competition for an outdoor sculpture. Jón Gunnar presented his sculpture, The Sun Voyager, into the contest and won. Although initiated by the residents of Vesturbær district, the sculpture has never decorated that part of Reykjavík as initially intended in the small field Landakotstún, on the hill by the Catholic church. However, in August 1990, it was placed on Sæbraut after the city had built a small platform in the City Center district. The sculpture is made of steel and took one year to complete. It is 17 meters long and weighs 2.6 tons. Although the artist passed away the year before, he had seen the plan and drawings and, in his humorous way, called the platform constructed for the sculpture Jon's Peninsula.


Solfar is not a Viking ship but a dream machine

Sun Voyager Sólfar in Reykjavík
Sun Voyager Sólfar in Reykjavík

The sculpture Sun Voyager has its roots in an almost spiritual experience Jón had in Finland in 1985. He had a vision where he saw before him a Sun Voyager. He felt that he had been a part of a journey hundreds of years ago, traveling from Mongolia to Iceland. A trip with a promise of an unsettled land. He believed this was a real story from his previous life on earth and that indications point to relations between Mongolia and Iceland. Even settlers in Iceland came from Mongolia rather than Nordic countries. So the journey was genuine for Jón, although it might sound surrealistic to many. But such is the story behind the artistic concept of the sculpture.


The sculpture Sun Voyager is now one of Reykjavik's best-known landmarks

The Sun Voyager is a popular landmark in Reykjavík
The Sun Voyager is a popular landmark in Reykjavík

The sculpture Sun Voyager has a much longer story to tell. Disputes over the location, various interpretations, enormous arguments over two stacks that suddenly appeared by its side soon after it was put down at Sæbraut, and of course why the sculpture was not put up in the district of Vesturbær where it was intended to be from the beginning. In any sense; human, artistic, spiritual, or as a structure, Sun Voyager is a great work of art. It still stands where it was located in August of 1990 at Sæbraut near the conference center Harpa in downtown Reykjavík.

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