In 1978 The Living Art Museum Collection began with the goal to preserve artwork and material from a developing, but overlooked, contemporary art scene. An atmosphere of dismissal or indifference inspired the founders to gather works by local and international artists at different stages in their careers and influences into a collection, to maintain this history and promote experimental practices, a platform for critical discussion and bring contemporary art ideas to multiple audiences.
The collection continues to aim to reflect an awareness of the developments in contemporary art and is interested in addressing the questions that can often be difficult to ask. As a advocate in support of artists, the collection is specific in its range of works, artists, and media. 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 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.
Works by the following artists can be found in the collection: Alison Knowles, Anna Líndal, Arna Óttarsdóttir, Ásta Ólafsdóttir, Ben Vautier, Birgir Andrésson, Bjarni H. Þórarinsson, Carsten Höller, Dieter Roth, Dorothy Iannone, Douwe Jan Bakker, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Finnbogi Pétursson, Franz Graf, Geoffrey Hendricks, Henriette van Egten, Hildigunnur Birgisdóttir, Hildur Hákonardóttir, Hreinn Friðfinnsson, Jan Voss, John Armleder, Joseph Beuys, Kees Visser, Kristján Guðmundsson, Lina Lapelyte, Magnús Pálsson, Margrét Blöndal, Matthew Barney, Meredith Monk, Muriel Magenta, Myriam Bat-Yosef, Níels Hafstein, Ólafur Lárusson, Ragna Hermannsdóttir, Ragnar Kjartansson, Richard Long, Robert Filiou, Róska, Rúna Þorkelsdóttir, Rúrí, Sigurður Guðmundsson, Steina Vasulka, Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir, The Icelandic Love Corporation, Thomas Hirschhorn, Þorvaldur Þorsteinsson, and many more.