Installation at the ETERNAL LIFE exhibition,
Akureyri Municipal Art Museum, November 1996
The artist asked a number of individuals the familiar question, “What object would you take out with you if your house caught fire?”
Most people mentioned photographs of their children and family albums as the valuables they would least wish to lose. Something nobody would doubt. Yet in five cases people mentioned objects whose value was far from obvious: well-known Icelandic books; a jar which had been glued together, containing dried roses; an old freemasons ring; a notebook of telephone numbers and a statuette.
After hearing the stories behind those objects, Thorsteinsson realised that they definitely were invaluable, so he asked to borrow them for an exhibition at Akureyri Municipal Art Museum, where they were shown in glass cases along with the stories about them by their anonymous owners.
To show his gratitude for the loan, the artist arranged with the Art Museum for the owners of these valuables to be allowed to chose a work from the museum collection to hang on the walls of their homes while their own personal treasures were on public exhibition.
Photographs of the exchanged works were displayed on the wall behind the showcases.
After reading the stories, few people were left in any doubt that the paintings borrowed from the museum in exchange for the books, the jar, the ring, the notebook and the statuette were dwarfed by the emotional value attached to these objects.