Exploring and reflecting on the environment through the art of Olafur Eliasson

The exhibition Olafur Eliasson: In Your Time “dedicated to one of the most original and visionary contemporary artists of our time” recently ended at Palazzo Strozzi, but those who missed the opportunity in Florence until July 2 can still visit La Manica Lunga of the Castello di Rivoli, where there is another exhibition by the artist Olafur Eliasson: trembling horizons

Olafur Eliasson, nel tuo tempo exhibition, 2022 – Courtesy Palazzo Strozzi, ph Ela Bialkowska

Olafur Eliasson was born in Copenhagen in 1967 to Icelandic parents. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and began his artistic career in the late 1980s. 

His work is characterized by its focus on sensory experience and the ability to create spaces and objects that encourage the viewer to explore the world around him. 

One of Eliasson’s most famous works is The Weather Project which was presented at the Tate Modern in London in 2003. The installation consisted of a large artificial sun placed in the center of a large room. The viewer entering the room had the sensation of being bathed in a warm, golden light created by artificial lighting and artificial fog. The effect was so convincing that many visitors sat on the floor and enjoyed the warmth of the “artificial sunshine”.

Olafur Eliasson, The Weather project, 2003 – Courtesy wordpress

Another famous work is Your Rainbow Panorama, a permanent installation located on top of the Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum building in Denmark. It is a wide circular walkway of colored glass that offers a panoramic view of the city. The colors of the glass change depending on the time of day and weather conditions, creating an ever-changing experience of light and color.

Eliasson’s works are not only aesthetically pleasing but often have a social or political message as well. For example, in 2018, he created Ice Watch which consisted of twelve big blocks of ice taken from the Nuuk Fjord in Greenland and placed in downtown Copenhagen. The installation aimed to raise awareness of the urgent need to address climate change and ice loss in the polar regions.

Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing. Supported by Bloomberg. Installation: Bankside, outside Tate Modern, 2018. Photo: Justin Sutcliffe © 2018 Olafur Eliasson – Courtesy Artbooms

Eliasson is an extremely prolific artist: he operates with a wide range of media, including photography, sculpture, installation, performance, and his studio based in Berlin counts more than 70 creatives. However, his works need one key element to achieve the desired result:  the active participation of visitors, who are encouraged to reflect on what we are surrounded by and how we relate to it.