Posted .

Check Mate

Porno pawns?

Iceland's Reykjavik Art Museum is the setting for a major new exhibition featuring fifteen original chess sets and boards made by a 'who's who' of contemporary art, including Damien Hirst, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin and many others. These stunning pieces differed greatly from artist to artist - not only in size and materials, but also in the apparent agenda of the artist.

Most intriguing is 'Chess set, 2003' by the Chapman Brothers, featuring creepy mutated child-like figures similar to those shown at the Saatchi Gallery in London. 'Amorphous Organic, 2008' by artist Alistair Mackie is also impressive, featuring a geological sample viewing table with the chess pieces represented by single insects suspended in amber. The piece was made all the more visually stunning by a light box set into the table to illuminate the insects - split between the 'white' pieces, which are winged, and the 'black' which are not

Iceland is a particularly relevant setting for such a show as it held what is widely considered the most controversial chess match in history, the 1972 match between the American Bobby Fischer and Soviet champion Boris Spassky, publicised as something of a Cold War battle through chess. Fischer was quoted as saying 'Chess is war on a board: the object is to crush the other man's mind.' The controversial Fisher died in Iceland in 2008 shortly after being granted citizenship by the Icelandic government.

The Art of Chess, curated by Mark Sanders, Julia Royse, and Larry List, continues at the Reykjavik Art Museum until 13 April 2009, offering talks by the artists, large scale real chess games and many other innovative takes on this most regal of games.

Charlie Strand


  1. ArtFan
    17:27 20 Feb 2009
    I saw that show as well and it was excellent! I really liked the one by Alistair Mackie and the giant outdoor chess set.
  2. JoshBaker
    14:51 21 Feb 2009
    Great article Charlie! I look forward to the next. It's great to read what's happening in the Icelandic fashion/art scene.
  3. CharlieStrand
    19:35 21 Feb 2009
    Thanks Josh, I hope to bring a bit of Icelandic flavor from time to time, glad you like it. There were some other really excellent pieces that I've attached below, one from Damien Hirst, one from Alastair Mackie and finally the other side from the Jake & Dinos Chapman set. I think they are great!
  4. Pixelfinity
    12:18 22 Feb 2009
    Charlie-I love everything that happens in Iceland, an amazing culture and outlook of it's own. Major artist should be honoured to be exhibiting over there. Love the article hope there will be more.
  5. CharlieStrand
    12:42 22 Feb 2009
    Thanks very much for your feedback, hopefully I will be able to bring you more weird and wonderful events and happenings from Iceland.
  6. CharlieStrand
    12:47 22 Feb 2009
    Damien Hirst's Chess set.
  7. CharlieStrand
    12:50 22 Feb 2009
    Bjarni and Anna from Reykjavik's fashion boutique "Belleville" observe Damien Hirst's piece.
  8. CharlieStrand
    12:52 22 Feb 2009
    Alastair Mackie's chess set.
  9. CharlieStrand
    12:55 22 Feb 2009
    Onlooker enjoys Alastair Mackie's piece.
  10. CharlieStrand
    12:56 22 Feb 2009
    The other set (Black pieces) from Jake & Dinos Chapman's set.
  11. CharlieStrand
    12:59 22 Feb 2009
    Jonsi from Sigur Ros observes Rachel Whiteread's chess set.