Olafur Eliasson was born in 1967 in Copenhagen, Denmark of Icelandic parentage. He attended the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen from 1989 to 1995. He has participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide and his work is represented in public and private collections including the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Deste Foundation, Athens and Tate. Recently he has had major solo exhibitions at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe and represented Denmark in the 2003 Venice Biennale. He currently lives and works in Berlin.

Olafur Eliasson Your Sun Machine 1997

Olafur Eliasson
Your Sun Machine
Installation view Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles
© Olafur Eliasson

Other works

The basic elements of the weather – water, light, temperature, pressure – are the materials that Olafur Eliasson has used throughout his career. His installations regularly feature elements appropriated from nature – billowing steam replicating a water geyser, glistening rainbows or fog-filled rooms. By introducing ‘natural’ phenomena, such as water, mist or light, into an un specifically cultivated setting, be it a city street or an art gallery, the artist encourages the viewer to reflect upon their understanding and perception of the physical world that surrounds them. This moment of perception, when the viewer pauses to consider what they are experiencing, has been described by Eliasson as ‘seeing yourself sensing’.

Olafur Eliasson The mediated motion 2001

Olafur Eliasson
The mediated motion 2001
Installation view Kunsthaus Bregenz
Courtesy neugerriemschneider

Many of Eliasson’s works explore the relationship between the spectator and object. In Your Sun Machine 1997 viewers entered a room which was empty apart from a large circular hole punctured in the roof. Each morning, sunlight streamed into the space through this aperture, at first creating an elliptical, then a circular outline on the walls and floor. The beam of light shifted across the room as the day progressed. The movement of the ‘sun’ across the room was apparently the central focus of the work, but in observing this, the viewer was reminded of his or her own position as an object, located on earth, spinning through space around the real sun.

For The Mediated Motion at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria (2001), Eliasson created a sequence of spaces filled with natural materials including water, fog, earth, wood, fungus and duckweed. During their journey through the exhibition, visitors were confronted by a variety of sensory experiences – sights, smells, and textures – which had been precisely articulated by the artist. Eliasson also modified the dominant orthogonal character of the building, including the insertion of a subtly slanting floor, which made visitors become more conscious of the act of movement through space.