The works of artist Olafur Eliasson explore the relevance of art in the world at large. Born in 1967, Eliasson grew up in Iceland and Denmark, where he studied from 1989 to 1995 at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1995, he moved to Berlin and founded Studio Olafur Eliasson, which today comprises a large team of craftsmen, architects, archivists, researchers, administrators, cooks, programmers, art historians, and specialised technicians.
Since 1997, his wide-ranging solo shows – featuring installations, paintings, sculptures, photography, and film – have appeared in major museums around the globe. He represented Denmark at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and later that year installed The weather project, an enormous artificial sun shrouded by mist, in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London, which was seen by more than two million people. In 2014, Contact was the opening exhibition of Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris. Verklighetsmaskiner (Reality machines), at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 2015, became the museum’s most visited show by a living artist. In 2016, Eliasson created a series of interventions for the palace and gardens of Versailles and mounted two large-scale exhibitions: Nothingness is not nothing at all, at Long Museum, Shanghai, and The parliament of possibilities, at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul. Green light – An artistic workshop, created in 2016 in collaboration with TBA21 (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary), offered a response to the challenges of mass displacement and migration. Eliasson’s site-specific installation Reality projector opened at the Marciano Foundation, Los Angeles, in March 2018, the same month as The unspeakable openness of things, his solo exhibition at Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing. In 2019, In real life, a wide-ranging survey exhibition of Eliasson’s artistic practice over the past twenty-five years, opened at Tate Modern, in London, before travelling to Guggenheim Bilbao in 2020. Olafur Eliasson: Symbiotic seeing opened at Kunsthaus Zürich in January 2020, and Sometimes the river is the bridge was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo from April to September 2020. For the exhibition Life, in 2021, Eliasson removed the glass facade of the Fondation Beyeler, in Basel, Switzerland, and conducted the bright green waters of the existing pond into the museum’s galleries, along with a host of aquatic plants and the odd duck or spider. 2022 saw the opening of two large-scale solo exhibitions in Italy – Nel tuo tempo (In your time), at Palazzo Strozzi, in Florence, and Orizzonti tremanti (Trembling horizons), at Castello di Rivoli, in Turin. In 2023, Eliasson opened الصحراء تعانق الخيال (The curious desert), a major exhibition that spans two locations in Qatar: a broad selection of watercolours, paintings, photographic series, and geometrical sculptures on view indoors at the National Museum of Qatar, in Doha, and a series of twelve experimental pavilions situated in the desert near the Al Thakhira Mangrove Forest nature preserve.
Eliasson has also produced numerous projects in public space. Green river was carried out in various cities between 1998 and 2001. Eliasson designed Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007 together with architect Kjetil Thorsen for London’s Kensington Gardens. The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by the Public Art Fund, were installed along the city’s waterfronts in 2008. Your rainbow panorama, a circular coloured-glass walkway atop ARoS Museum, Aarhus, Denmark, opened in 2011. Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, 2011, for which Eliasson created the facades in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects, won the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2013. For Ice Watch, Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing brought free-floating icebergs from a fjord outside Nuuk, Greenland, to public squares in European cities (Copenhagen, 2014; Paris, 2015; and London, 2018) to raise awareness of the climate crisis. Fjordenhus in Vejle, Denmark, the first building designed entirely by Eliasson and the architectural team at Studio Olafur Eliasson, was completed in June 2018. On the occasion of the 2020 German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Eliasson created Earth Speakr together with children around the world and with support from the German Federal Foreign Office; the global artwork invites kids to speak up for the planet. In 2022, Eliasson opened سفر الظلال في بحر النهار (Shadows travelling on the sea of the day), a cluster of large-scale site-specific mirror pavilions in the Qatari desert outside Doha.
In 2014, Eliasson and his long-time collaborator, architect Sebastian Behmann formed the office for art and architecture Studio Other Spaces to focus on interdisciplinary and experimental building projects and works in public space www.studiootherspaces.net.
As a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, Eliasson led the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments; 2009–14), a five-year experimental programme in arts education located in the same building as his studio www.raumexperimente.net.
Since 2012, Little Sun, the social business founded by Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, has produced and distributed solar lamps and chargers for use in off-grid communities, and has worked to spread awareness about the need to expand access to clean, sustainable energy to all www.littlesun.com.
In 2019 Eliasson was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for renewable energy and climate action by the United Nations Development Programme.
Eliasson lives and works in Copenhagen and Berlin.