Olafur Eliasson is a lauded Danish-Icelandic artist and architect known for his large-scale installations and mesmerizing immersive spaces, manipulating light, water and air temperature. Motivated to challenge the way we experience the world – and to not take our environment for granted – Eliasson is reimagining art’s role in society and uses it to highlight broader issues, such as climate change and the lack of electricity in off-grid areas around the globe.
He has put large arctic ice blocks from Greenland on the streets of Paris and London, created an enormous waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge (and an equally dramatic, freestanding waterfall at Versailles), and installed a huge sun-like monochromatic light at Tate Modern. He employs over 80 people working alongside him in his Berlin-based studio, which functions more like a laboratory delving into science, architecture, the environment, geometry and space.
Last year his nonprofit Little Sun announced a collaboration with IKEA for a solar-powered mini lamp, raising awareness for global energy access. As a result of his engagement with sustainability issues he was appointed UNDP Goodwill Ambassador “to advocate for urgent action on climate change and sustainable development goals” in 2019.
He establishes Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin, a laboratory for spatial research. Today he divides his time between his home in Copenhagen and Berlin.
Eliasson’s arguably most famous work, the Weather Project, is unveiled in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, receiving widespread acclaim. The atmospheric installation consists of hundreds of monochromatic lights which gives the illusion of one huge amber sun. It attracts more than a million visitors during its five month-run.
Louis Vuitton commissions Eliasson for the Eye See You light project, installing artworks in the windows of 360 Louis Vuitton stores worldwide for the Christmas season. All fees from the project are donated to 121Ethiopia.org, a charitable foundation initially established by Olafur and his wife.
The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by the Public Art Fund, are unveiled consisting of four man-made waterfalls in New York Harbor. The artwork cost $15.5 million.
He is tapped to design the facade of Harpa, Reykjavík’s concert hall and conference center. The majestic, innovative steel and glass structure reflects the sun and weather.
Eliasson launches the non-profit Little Sun initiative, aimed at providing portable solar lamps for regions in sub-Saharan Africa with no access to electricity.
The immersive Contact Exhibition is unveiled at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.
The Ice Watch project is launched, which consists of transporting huge chunks of ice from Greenland and placing them on the streets of Copenhagen. Eliasson reprises the installation for the UN Climate Conference in Paris in 2015, putting his work on display outside of an institution, wanting to create a dialogue with passersby.
Elisasson erects a seemingly freestanding waterfall in the garden of Versailles.
His new book by Phaidon, Olafur Eliasson: Experience – a comprehensive showcase of his life and work – is released. The same year the Reality Projector opens at the Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles. He also brings his Ice Watch to London, with 24 arctic ice blocks gradually melting outside the Tate and other public spaces.
Elisasson’s Little Sun collaboration with IKEA sees the light of day, a range of sustainable solar lamps. He also returns to London’s Tate Modern with his In Real Life Exhibition – an impressive body of work showcasing 40 of his works from the last 26 years of his stellar career (including an 11-meter-high waterfall outside the museum).