Olafar Eliasson, the Danish-Icelandic artist, has enjoyed a long relationship with the Tate Modern in London. Whether it’s flooding the Tate in artificial sunlight in 2003, or leaving 24 huge ice blocks to melt outside the gallery, Eliasson has been somewhat of a regular in the London art scene. This summer however, Eliasson gets his first retrospective at the museum bringing together over 40 works, most of which haven’t been seen in the UK before as well as some created specifically for the exhibition.
Before entering the museum, visitors are greeted with an 11-meter-high scaffolding structure with water cascading over its surface, entitled Waterfall. Eliasson’s interest in natural phenomena and the climate threads throughout his works, with explorations of light, water and mist seen in several immersive pieces. This includes some of his earlier works like an indoor rainbow from 1993 created by shining a light through falling water.
Moss Wall, another early work, is a 20-meter wall covered with reindeer moss which is a slow-growing, spongy lichen found in Scandinavia. Much like most of his works, these installations incite viewers to consider their relationship with the natural world, the planet, and the impact humans have on it.
A famous series of photographs that Eliasson took of Iceland’s glaciers in 1999 are also seen but will be replaced in the fall with a new work that shows the original images next to updated ones taken 20 years later, highlighting the drastic changes to the landscape over such a short period of time.
One immersive part of the exhibition invited visitors to walk through a long corridor filled with fog so thick that one can’t see beyond their own bodies.
The Weather Project, Eliasson’s 2003 work that filled the Turbine Hall with artificial sunlight, was one of the most popular exhibitions in the Tate’s history, bringing in more than a million visitors. For this exhibition however, Tate Modern’s senior curator of international art, Mark Godfrey, said that they did not want to recreate work that they had already seen. “We wanted to concentrate on works that are incredible and immersive and in some ways connect to The Weather Project but that people haven’t seen, so all but one of the works in the exhibition have never been seen before in Britain.”
Godfrey also said that the exhibition was “super urgent” because the questions it raises are “more relevant and urgent than ever”.
“Eliasson creates works that continually prompt viewers to think about the nature of perception,” said Godfrey. “Many of his installations play with reflections, inversions, after-images and shifting colours, to challenge the way we navigate and perceive our environments.”
Olufar Eliasson: In Real Life runs until January 2020.