Olafur Eliasson

at left: Ice Pavilion, 1998, steel, sprinkler, water
at right: The Weather Project, 2003, Tate London.

"In the course of his relatively brief career, the 40-year-old installation artist has become a master at manipulating natural phenomena. He has made waterfalls go uphill, dyed rivers bright green and created entire microclimates indoors. For his biggest commission to date, The Weather Project, (2003), Eliasson transformed the massive Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern into a seductively misty, futuristic environment, complete with manmade fog and a fake sun. Many visitors spontaneously lay down on the museum’s cold concrete floor, basking in the pseudo-radiance of the golden orb, which, upon inspection, revealed itself as a simple assemblage of 200 monofilament bulbs (the kind used in street lamps), arranged in a half circle and reflected in the mirrored ceiling. (...)

But the bespectacled, unfailingly mild-mannered Eliasson, who is of Icelandic ancestry and grew up in Denmark, is a good Scandinavian who finds the whole idea of success, not to mention celebrity, vaguely embarrassing. When The Weather Project drew more than one million visitors and the Tate asked him to extend the installation for a few extra months, he politely declined, fearful that the piece would become a kind of grotesque commercial for the museum, or for himself. “It was very important for me that the piece maintain some decency and dignity and some kind of distinct relationship with the content which was initially behind it,” he says.

At the heart of his philosophy is a belief in the subjectivity of art, and of just about everything. “I think people are treated slightly patronizingly by the art world,” he says. “And this is often exposed with things like guided audio tours. Museums put so much effort into interpreting and experiencing on behalf of the spectator.” Ever the relativist, he’s quick to offer a defense of elitist art too. “This discussion is dangerous because the next step would be to [denigrate] work that’s very inaccessible. But art can take on so many different forms and languages. Yes, I think it is important to be able to address everyone, but I also think it is important to have art that doesn’t do that.”

Further Reading! and here.

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