Olafur Eliasson

Stardust particle


On loan

Museum of Art Pudong (Shanghai, China): Pudong

Olafur Eliasson born 1967
Stainless steel, translucent mirror-filter glass, wire motor and spotlight
Object: 1700 × 1700 × 1700 mm
Presented by the artist in honour of Sir Nicholas Serota 2018


Stardust Particle 2014 is a hanging sculpture that features two irregular polyhedra forms, one embedded within the other, to form a single spheroid made of partially reflective, translucent filter glass and thin stainless steel struts. The vertices of the outer polyhedron, which appears as a steel framework, correspond to the centres of the glass pentagonal faces of the inner form. Depending on the lighting conditions and position of the viewer, the artwork changes appearance as the panes of partially reflective filter glass catch the light and reflect the surroundings. To amplify this effect, the sphere is suspended from a motor that causes it to steadily rotate, and a tripod-mounted spotlight is situated near to the suspended sculpture, projecting light onto its panels and causing reflections around the space where the work is hung.

Eliasson began making works that explored light and colour while he was a student at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen between 1989 and 1995, and these have remained cornerstones of his practice, as both media and subject matter. Initially it was the artistic and scientific properties of light and colour that were his primary interest; from 2003 onwards, however, he became more concerned with their psychological and physical effects – at its simplest, how light and colour can manipulate how one feels in a particular environment. This interest was evident in The Weather Project 2003, his installation of a giant ‘sun’, composed of 200 yellow mono-frequency lamps, in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London as part of the Unilever Series. It is also embodied in Stardust Particle, in which he uses light as a means of connecting the viewer to the work and so encouraging them to feel included within the gallery space. The work demonstrates Eliasson’s ongoing exploration of light and colour as a mode of intervention within public (institutional or civic) spaces, while also introducing a different element of his practice, and something that has become a special point of interest for him in recent years: the use of complex geometrical structures.

Stardust Particle is similar in composition and operation to an earlier work, Yellow versus Purple 2003 also in Tate’s collection (Tate T11806), though it creates a different effect. This earlier work includes a disc of glass that is suspended from a steel cable linked to a motor and illuminated by a tripod-mounted light so as to throw coloured shadows onto the wall behind. Viewers are invited to walk through, and become part of, the installation.
Stardust Particle was conceived for and first shown in the artist’s solo exhibition Contact at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris in 2014–15, in which Eliasson proposed contact as a form of social inclusion. He has said:

Contact can be a greeting, a smile, the feeling of another person’s hand in your hand. To be in contact is to be in touch with the good things in life as well as the difficult things in life. Contact is not a picture, it is not a representation; it is about your ability to reach out, connect, and perhaps even put yourself in another person’s palace. For me, contact is where inclusion begins.
(Artist’s statement, Contact, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, 2014, http://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr/en/expositions/exposition-olafur-eliasson-contact.html, accessed November 2017.)

It was subsequently included in his exhibition Nothingness is nothing at all at the Long Museum, Shanghai in 2016.

Further reading
Olafur Eliasson, Gijs van TuylHolger Broeker, Your Lighthouse: Works with Light 1991–2004, London 2004.
Madeline Grynszetejn, Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 8 September 2007–4 February 2008.
Olafur Eliasson and Phillip Ursprung (eds.), Studio Olafur Eliasson: An Encyclopedia, London 2016.

Emma Lewis
November 2017

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