Ólafur Elíasson

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Ólafur Elíasson at the Berlinale 2017

Ólafur Elíasson (born February 5, 1967 in Copenhagen ) is a Danish artist of Icelandic origin. He lives in Berlin and Copenhagen and deals primarily with physical phenomena in nature (such as light and water, movement and reflection ).

life and work

Ólafur Elíasson spent his childhood in Hafnarfjörður , Iceland. From 1989 to 1995 he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. During his studies he met the gallery owners Tim Neuger and Burkhard Riemschneider in Cologne and exhibited with them in Berlin. In 1994 he moved to Berlin because of these contacts. In July 2006 he received a call from the University of the Arts (UdK) in Berlin, where he founded the Institute for Space Experiments in 2009 and supervised it until 2014.

He runs a studio in a former Berlin factory building on Pfefferberg , where around 90-100 employees implement his designs. He conducts the courses for the University of the Arts in his own rooms.

Ólafur Elíasson's first works consisted of oscillating electric fans hanging from the ceiling. The fan from 1997, for example, swings back and forth and rotates on its own axis. The artist achieved greater fame with a similar project in 1998 when he exhibited a fan in the Postfuhramt at the 1998 Berlin Biennale .

In the Green River project (1998 to 2001) he colored the water of rivers in various parts of the world with a non-toxic dye. The reactions of the previously uninformed public became part of the work of art.

As part of the EXPO garden landscape OWL project , he created a scent tunnel from strongly scented plant species in the Gütersloh Botanical Garden .

Elíasson's ambiguous work of a giant artificial sun that illuminated the turbine hall of the Tate Modern in London in winter 2003/2004 became visually effective . The artificial sun invited two million people to linger; Elíasson created a community experience without coercion and enabled visitors to reflect on the relationship between art and nature in a relaxed manner.

In 2004, when the Wachau was declared a World Heritage Site, he installed a camera obscura on the Spitz – Arnsdorf ferry that projects the two banks of the Danube into the cabin.

In 2004 and 2005 he created projects in Munich . For the local branch of an auditing company he designed an up and down of two double helix stairs with the title paraphrase . In the following year, with the support of a glass manufacturer, he created a glass facade for the rehearsal building of the Bavarian State Opera called the stage window . On 300 m² it allows both reflections and transparency in connection with two colored layers, it thus closes off the stables in the south and reflects the activities on the square up high.

The light lab project is a multi-part light installation specially designed for the roof of the New Portikus in Frankfurt am Main . The first installation from the series was presented in April 2006 - an arc that looked like a rising sun.

Ólafur Elíasson had installed four large man-made waterfalls around the southwest tip of Manhattan in June 2008 (under the Brooklyn Bridge , on the FDR Drive, one behind warehouses on the Brooklyn boardwalk and the fourth in front of Governors Island ). An estimated 13.1 billion liters fell from scaffolding into the East River from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for 110 days . The energy consumption for the water cycle is said to have been offset by loan trading with wind energy . The project was created in a collaboration between the city administration, the artist and the Public Art Fund .

Yellow Fog by Ólafur Elíasson is an intervention in public space that was installed on the facade of the main building of Österreichische Elektrizitätswirtschafts-AG in Vienna in October 2008 on the initiative of the company's own Verbund collection. Every day at dusk, the facade is bathed in yellow fog for an hour. The aim is to turn the historic Am Hof square into a stage in the middle of the city, on which a play of light, fog and wind is created. The smooth transition between the building, the sidewalk and the square is intended to change the perception of the urban space. In addition, Yellow Fog addresses the transition from day to night and draws attention to changes in the daily rhythm. Ólafur Elíasson not only makes the abstract concept of space visible, but also the technical requirements of the intervention. For this purpose, a 48-meter-long grid was set into the sidewalk along the facade. Underneath are the 32 fluorescent tubes that generate the specific yellow light, precisely coordinated by the artist. Yellow fog was installed ten years earlier in 1998 on the facade of the Jewish Museum in New York for the temporary exhibition Light × Eight: The Hanukkah Project .

In 2011 the Harpa concert hall opened in Reykjavík , the facade of which Ólafur Elíasson designed, inspired by the different lighting moods on his home island. It consists of a honeycomb structure made of dichroic glass that reacts to the changing colors of daylight depending on the weather.

In May 2012, Ólafur Elíasson was appointed as a new member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, which he accepted. He had already exhibited a light installation for the opening exhibition of the new academy building on Pariser Platz in 2005. Active membership presupposes that artists actively participate in the tasks of the academy, so that Ólafur Elíasson will show further presence in the academy in the future.

In May 2013, the new Lenbachhaus building was opened in Munich , in the entrance area of ​​which the artist's light sculpture Vortex is hanging from the ceiling.

In the summer of 2013, Ólafur Elíasson brought a piece of the Vatnajökull Glacier to the EXPO 1: New York exhibition at MoMA PS1 in New York to highlight the effects of global warming .

In 2017 he was appointed to the competition jury of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival .

In the summer of 2018, Elíasson and his sister opened a restaurant in Iceland for three months.

In 2020, on the occasion of the German EU presidency, Elíasson was commissioned by Heiko Maas to create an interactive work of art. Elíasson created a polyphonic work by children in 24 languages ​​via app and in public places such as in parliaments in order to deal with topics such as the environment , extinction of species , the waste of resources and climate policy . In the art project, objects such as Nutella glass, a globe and a plastic bag get a child's voice, which is primarily aimed at adults with demands, appeals and accusations.

"Little Sun" project

Sabine Langen-Crasemann, board member of the Langen Foundation, with the yellow LED solar lamp

A small yellow LED light made of plastic - Kleine Sonne / Little Sun -, whose batteries are powered by PV , is to be sold 50 million times by 2020. B. provide an artificial light source for all people who still have to live without a power connection. Her design was exhibited at the Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London in 2012 . The lamp is also available in Europe for around 20 to 30 euros. When charged with daylight, it shines either full for 5 hours or at half power for 10 hours.

In 2017, Little Sun received an update in the form of Little Sun Diamond . Little Sun uses 70 grams of plastic, while Little Sun Diamond uses just under 20 grams of plastic.


In 1997 Ólafur Elíasson received the Bremen Art Prize and in 2004 the Eckersberg Medal. In June 2006 he received the Austrian Friedrich Kiesler Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of architecture and the arts , which correspond to the experimental and innovative views of Friedrich Kiesler and his theory of correlated arts . In September 2006 he was awarded the 500,000 DKK doped Culture Award of the Danish royal couple and endowed with 70,000 euros in May 2007 Joan Miró Prize awarded. In October 2013 he received the Goslarer Kaiserring . On New Year's Day 2008 he became a Knight of the Order of the Falcons . In 2013 he and the Danish architect Henning Larsen received the Mies van der Rohe Prize of the European Union for contemporary architecture for their Harpa concert hall in the Icelandic capital Reykjavík. The prize is considered the most prestigious European architecture prize and is endowed with 60,000 euros.

On June 24, 2013, the President of the Republic of Iceland , Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson , visited Ólafur Elíasson's studio in Berlin as part of a state visit to Germany. In 2016 he was made a Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres .

Exhibitions (selection)

Publications (selection)


  • Jessica Morgan (Ed.): Olafur Eliasson. Your only real thing is time . Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2001, ISBN 0-7148-4036-X .
  • Madeleine Grynsztejn et al .: Olafur Eliasson . Phaidon, London 2002, ISBN 0-7148-4036-X .
  • Anne Schloen: Olafur Eliasson: Nothing is more difficult to know than what we actually see in: Artists. Critical Lexicon of Contemporary Art, issue 58, issue 11, Munich 2002 ISSN  0934-1730 .
  • Gitte Ørskou (Ed.): Olafur Eliasson - the blind pavilion . Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2003, ISBN 3-7757-1377-8 .
  • Gijs van Tuyl: Olafur Eliasson, Your lighthouse. Working with light 1991-2004 . Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2004. ISBN 3-7757-1440-5
  • Olafur Eliasson, Kjetil Thorsen: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007 . Serpentine Gallery, London 2007, ISBN 978-3-03778-116-6 .
  • Shigeru Ban, Olafur Eliasson, Peter Geimer, Friedrich Kittler: reflection and image . gta, Zurich 2007. ISBN 978-3-85676-208-7 .
  • Held Together with Water - Art from the Verbund Collection . Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2007, ISBN 978-3-7757-1952-0 .
  • Daniel Birnbaum (Ed.): Olafur Eliasson - Inside City Outside , Gropius Bau, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86560-765-2 .
  • Yasmin Doosry et al. a .: Seen from above: the bird's eye view. From Behaim to Elíasson. Publishing house of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum , Nuremberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-936688-91-7 .


Web links

Commons : Ólafur Elíasson  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Whoswho.de February 5, 1967
  2. a b Aureliana Sorrento: Art in Public Space - The Time of Cities ( Memento from March 23, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) , Frankfurter Rundschau from March 17, 2010
  3. Studio Olafur Eliasson. Retrieved November 14, 2017 .
  4. Biographical information on the new members (PDF; 180 kB), Akademie der Künste, press release June 18, 2012
  5. Artist portrait - Synthetic nature pictures from the Danish nature boy , kunstmarkt.com, accessed on July 19, 2012
  6. Kia Vahland: Olafur Eliasson. Retrieved August 4, 2020 .
  7. Installation in the cabin of the Spitz-Arnsdorf taxi ferry by Brigitte Huck; Retrieved September 26, 2014
  8. Unveiling of the installation "Stage Windows" by Olafur Eliasson. (No longer available online.) Bavarian State Opera, July 28, 2005, archived from the original on August 27, 2014 ; Retrieved June 28, 2013 .
  9. Object report issue 4/2007 - Rehearsal building of the Bavarian State Opera Munich. (PDF) (No longer available online.) Schott AG , archived from the original on December 6, 2008 ; Retrieved June 28, 2013 .
  10. Jordan Mejias: Olafur Eliasson's waterfalls. This is your work of art! , FAZ from June 28, 2008
  11. Yellow Fog ( Memento from October 13, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), ORF OE1 from October 9, 2008
  12. ^ New members of the Akademie der Künste Akademie der Künste, press release June 18, 2012
  13. Wirbelwerk, Ólafur Elíasson (* 1967 Copenhagen). Retrieved October 18, 2019 .
  14. ^ Rena Silverman: Europe's Largest Glacier Comes to New York. In: National Geographic , June 29, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  15. Florian Siebeck: Ólafur Elíasson in an interview: “A good feeling to be here again”. In: www.faz.net. August 11, 2018. Retrieved August 11, 2018 .
  16. Olafur Eliasson's lamp "Little Sun" Spiritual sun, functional sun. In: FAZ of July 14, 2012.
  17. a b Tate Modern: Little Sun
  18. Katharina Dippold: Small lamp: The most valuable diamond in the world is made of plastic . In: The world . September 12, 2017 ( welt.de [accessed February 12, 2018]).
  19. Nicola Schwarzmaier: Little Sun Diamond: Small lamp, great influence . In: The daily newspaper: taz . September 8, 2017, ISSN  0931-9085 ( taz.de [accessed February 12, 2018]).
  20. Die Zeit: Olafur Eliasson honored as an artist in the footsteps of da Vinci , January 11, 2013
  21. Database query on the website of the President of Iceland , accessed on July 6, 2020.
  22. Press release EU Commission , accessed on April 30, 2013.
  23. ^ Olafur Summit on Pfefferberg , Berliner Zeitung, June 25, 2013, accessed on June 27, 2013.
  24. State visit without any state of emergency , Tagesspiegel Online, June 25, 2013, accessed on June 27, 2013.
  25. lefigaro.fr
  26. ZKM: Surroundings Surrounded
  27. KUB: The mediated motion
  28. ^ Tate Modern: The Weather Project
  29. ^ Wolfsburg Art Museum: Your Lighthouse. Working with light 1991-2004 ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  30. ZIL: Reflective Corridor - Design to Stop Free Fall
  31. So close to Niagara Falls. SZ from July 3, 2008 (with photo series)
  32. ^ Hamburger Kunsthalle: Children's room
  33. LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz: Official website
  34. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: louisiana.dk , August 20, 2014 - January 4, 2015.
  35. ^ Exhibition in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, November 20, 2014 - February 22, 2015.
  36. Winterpalais: belvedere.at , November 21, 2015 - March 6, 2016
  37. Olafur Eliasson in Versailles - Waterfall as training in perception. Retrieved on February 20, 2019 (German).
  38. The Little Sun King | Monopol - magazine for art and life. June 7, 2016, accessed February 20, 2019 .
  39. ^ Charlie Schmidlin: Olafur Eliasson on Process, Audiences, and His Latest Exhibition. In: Creators. October 2, 2016, Retrieved February 20, 2019 (American English).
  40. ^ Montreal Hosts to Olafur Eliasson Retrospective. Retrieved February 20, 2019 (Canadian English).
  41. Red Brick Art Museum holds largest showcase of art from Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson - Global Times. Retrieved February 20, 2019 .
  42. ^ Bayerischer Rundfunk Julie Metzdorf: Exhibition "water colors": Olafur Eliasson in the Pinakothek der Moderne . June 6, 2018 ( br.de [accessed September 10, 2019]).
  43. Evelyn Vogel: Zarter Schmelz . In: sueddeutsche.de . June 8, 2018, ISSN  0174-4917 ( sueddeutsche.de [accessed February 20, 2019]).
  44. ^ Tate: Olafur Eliasson: In real life - Exhibition at Tate Modern. In: Tate. 2019, accessed July 14, 2019 (UK English).
  45. Will Gompertz: Olafur Eliasson: Will Gompertz reviews the Danish-Icelandic artist's show at Tate Modern. In: BBC. July 13, 2019, Retrieved July 14, 2019 (UK English).
  46. Sebastian Jordahn: Olafur Eliasson's Tate Modern retrospective shows reality in "higher granularity". In: Dezeen. July 12, 2019, accessed on July 14, 2019 .
  47. eliasson.kunsthaus.ch (April 26, 2020)
  48. ^ Art in the stomach in Der Spiegel 26/2016, page 108
  49. ^ Studio Olafur Eliasson: Experience. In: Publication. Studio Olafur Elliasson, 2018, accessed November 22, 2018 .