Take refuge from the modern world's perpetual distraction on an island devoted entirely to art – from the Swedish and Danish archipelagos, to Canada's rural Eastern coast
In an era which sees our senses endlessly flooded with new information, art and the institutions that host it serve as a crucial sanctuary. What better refuge for a modern adventurer, then, than an island solely dedicated to creative pursuits? The world is dotted with unlikely art islands – awe-inspiring structures serving up the very best in modern masterpieces, against scarcely populated landscapes of stunning natural beauty. Here, we bring you a selection of some of the most magnificent art islands around the world, from a residency-based charity initiative off the coast of Canada, to a serene ex-caviar factory in Norway, within sight of the Northern Lights.
Fogo Island Arts, Canada
On the Eastern coast of the Newfoundland and Labrador districts of Canada, in the North Atlantic sea, lies Fogo Island, and on it, Fogo Island Arts – a geological, artistic and social project seeking to regenerate an area which has lost much of its trade. The charity-based initiative was founded in 2008, and its primary aim is to create cultural and economic resiliency for the island by inviting (in its own words) "artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, curators, designers, and thinkers" to complete residencies lasting between one and 15 months.
Fogo also plays host to exhibitions by the artists in its dedicated gallery space, and then follows up on the residencies by collaborating with Berlin-based publisher Sternberg Press to produce publications focusing on the process. As for the building itself, it's a minimalist yet decidedly naturalistic design by architect Todd Saunders, set into the rugged Canadian landscape: the exhibition space itself is accompanied by accommodation, a rooftop sauna, and a digital cinema space, all decorated with bespoke furniture created by local craftspeople.
Situated a short boat journey from the Swedish capital of Stockholm, the stunning surroundings of Baggen’s Bay on Värmdö form part of the archipelago of islands that sweep out from the city across the sparkling Baltic sea. In the midst of the island's majestic pine forest, visitors will find Artipelag, one of Stockholm’s newest and largest galleries; recent exhibitions include an Andy Warhol and Carouschka Streijffert retrospective, amongst others.
Founded in 2000 by Björn Jakobson, the creator of BabyBjörn, the centre's programme combines art exhibitions with concerts and other events to form a 360-degree approach to supporting creative culture. What's more, the waterside restaurant provides picturesque views over the rocky beaches and out to the Baggensfjärden bay, along with fresh seasonal produce and barbecues in the summer. Visitors can also retreat inside the cavernous gallery space to discover the 'Badan' rock, named in the local dialect, which has been naturally eroded over the past 11 thousand years. The architect behind the building, Johan Nyrén, strove for the harmonious convergence of the natural elements in his design, merging earth, fire, air and water.
The KaviarFactory, Norway
The island of Henningsvaer in the Lofoten archipelago, close to northern Norway's secluded coastline, is the unlikely home of the KaviarFactory, a vitally important venue for contemporary arts in the Scandinavian region. The production of caviar started at the site back in 1924, but since 2013, the factory has become a welcome home to the personal collection of Venke and Rolf Hoff, two impassioned collectors of international art. Their impact on the country's cultural legacy is astounding. They lend innumerable works to neighbouring institutions in both Norway and around the world, while showing incredibly ambitious collections in their own space; its current show, for example, entitled above the ARTic circle, features no fewer than 38 female artists from 21 different countries.
The Hoffs know exactly how to take advantage of the rural, off-grid location to offer experiences that have never previously been available to such regions; it's situated in the close vicinity of Skulpturlandskap, a Norwegian sculptural trail and cultural initiative featuring work by land artists such as Antony Gormley and sculptor Anish Kapoor. In these remote settings, both the resonance of such ambitious works and the natural beauty of their environment are heightened, creating a truly symbiotic relationship between the two, and an unforgettable experience for all those who visit.
ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Denmark
The ARKEN Museum of Modern Art is especially unique in that the island it is situated on is manmade – its maritime-inspired architecture, designed by architecture student Søren Robert Lund, was based on the model of a giant beached ship, and was initially intended to be built on a beach. Thus, when the project was moved further inland, its creators decided to build a lagoon around it instead, with bridges connecting it to the mainland. The nautical theme extends throughout its interior, too, through heavy iron doors, rivet-like bolts, and metal staircases surrouding the expansive exhibition space.
The collection at ARKEN is as established as it is experimental, with works from Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei, alongside seasonal exhibitions (its current offering studies the oeuvre of Niki Saint Phalle). Don't miss the ARKEN café, which "hangs like a lifeboat on the side of Arken", for fresh Danish produce and unparalleled views of the beach.