In 1978 when the groundwork for the collection began, preserving artwork and material from a developing, but overlooked, contemporary art scene was the focus. An atmosphere of dismissal inspired the mission to gather works by local and international artists at different stages in their practices and influences, to promote experimental engagements, critical discussion and exchange with multiple audiences.
The collection continues to aim to reflect an awareness of developments in the field of art and interest in addressing the questions that are often harder to ask. One of the current areas of focus within the collection is on developing and expanding ways to collect performance artwork in connection to the Performance Archive and through close discussion with the artists themselves.
Each year the museum receives a number of donations from exhibiting artists and other generous contributors in the form of artworks, performances, or material and documents corresponding to the archives. The board reviews these donations annually with the museum´s mission statement in mind. New additions to the collection are cataloged at the end of each year.
Nýló´s extensive collection is based solely on donations by its members and friends. Traditionally artists that have exhibited in Nýló have donated works to the collection, which has allowed to museum to accumulate a diverse body of work by Icelandic and international artists over the past 30+ years. The collection houses a notable amount of rare artist books and prints, alongside other mediums and documentation that speaks to the context of the history of the museum and artworks within the collection. Nýló places equal emphasis on collecting works from local and international artists, with the hope to provide a glimpse into the way alternative histories and timelines can be collected, archived and made accessible beyond the museum´s walls.
Alongside over 50 other museums and institutions collectively in Iceland, the collection is registered with Sarpur, an online collections management system. The information held in Sarpur is owned by the member museums and provides the public with access to a registry of well over one million artworks, objects, documents, archaeological, ethnological and archival material.
Artworks donations by Icelandic artists include:
Anna Líndal, Ásta Ólafsdóttir, Birgir Andrésson, Bjarni H. Þórarinsson, Brynhildur Þorgeirsdóttir, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Finnbogi Pétursson, Helgi Þórsson, Hildur Hákonardóttir, Hreinn Friðfinnsson, Ívar Valgarðsson, Karlotta Blöndal, Kristján Guðmundsson, Magnús Pálsson, Margrét Blöndal, Níels Hafstein, Ólafur Lárusson, Ósk Vilhjálmsdóttir, Ragna Hermannsdóttir, Ragnar Kjartansson, Róska, Rúna Þorkelsdóttir, Rúrí, Sigurður Guðmundsson, Steina and Woody Vasulka, Steingrímur Eyfjörð, The Icelandic Love Corporation and Þorvaldur Þorsteinsson and more.
Artwork donations by international artists include:
Ben Vautier, Carsten Höller, Dieter Roth, Dorothy Iannone, Douwe Jan Bakker, Franz Graf, Henriette van Egten, John Armleder, Jan Voss, Jordan Baseman, Kees Visser, Matthew Barney, Meredith Monk, Richard Hamilton, Robert Filiou, Thomas Hirschhorn and more.