Ice Watch, 2014 Bankside, outside Tate Modern, London, 2018
Photo: Justin Sutcliffe, Courtesy of Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson

The Icelandic artist's works bring natural phenomena into unusual settings

Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Charlie Forgham-Bailey

Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s works often bring natural phenomena—like light, moisture, heat, ice—into unusual settings, suggesting a meditation on our perception of the world. He’s poured water-soluble dye into rivers, turning them green, and created four faux waterfalls in New York City to explore the properties of water. In early December, he installed 24 blocks of ice, which were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord in Greenland, outside Tate Modern as a visceral reminder of the effects of climate change. “We hope that Ice Watch created feelings of proximity, presence, and relevance of narratives that you can identify with and that make us all engage,” he wrote on his blog the day in early January that the ice fully melted.

Harvesting ice at nuuk port and harbour, Greenland. Photo: kuupik v. kleist/KVK consult, © 2018 olafur eliasson

Last summer, he completed his first permanent building—a fortresslike office in the Vejle Fjord in Denmark—which applied the artist’s experience working with light, perception, and nature to a functioning architectural structure. And in September, he and his sister, Victoria Eliasdóttir (a chef who worked with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse), opened SOE Kitchen 101, a pop-up culinary and event space in Reykjavík where local arts organizations will present a series of lectures, poetry readings, and musical performances. The aim is to enable people to understand that “eating isn’t just about passively consuming.”

Dig in! Family-style dinner at SOE Kitchen 101, Marshall House, Reykjavík. Photo: Ari Maag
Fjordenhus, 2009-2018 in Vejle, Denmark. Photo: Taylor Dover

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Spring Issue under the headline Creative Minds. Subscribe to the magazine.


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