Olafur Eliasson

The theory of the sublime, that overwhelming emotion of greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation, is a concept that artists have grappled with for centuries. From paintings of sea storms by JMW Turner to the violent dramas of Henry Fuseli, the sublime remains a constant source of fascination. The late 1990s saw a resurgence in interest in the sublime when conceptual artists, who were also concerned with the environment, began making artworks that questioned humanity’s role in the destruction of nature. Perhaps the most famous of these artists is Olafur Eliasson, who has become celebrated for his public art commissions.

Born in Denmark in 1967, Eliasson’s parents separated when he was four years old, and his father returned to Iceland where he became a landscape painter. In 1989, Eliasson attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and, a year after graduating, secured his first solo show.

In 1995, he founded the Studio Olafur Eliasson, an experimental laboratory in Berlin where a team of about 90 people from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from technicians to art historians, manufacture ideas rather than things.

Eliasson is an artist committed to pushing the boundaries of space using materials such as lights, mirrors and water. Viewers play a major part in his work. In 1998, he used uranin, a dye used to detect plumbing leaks, to colour a Berlin river fluorescent green. In 2008, he created four huge manmade waterfalls in New York harbour.

His best-known work is The Weather Project, commissioned for the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern in 2003. Using a semi-circle of hundreds of yellow lamps and enormous mirrors he created a dazzling sunset and a vast ceiling that reflected the audience and the surroundings. Designed to put visitors back in touch with the deep sense of awe ancestors must have felt as they watched the sun rise and set each day, it was described by the art critic Richard Dorment as having ‘a terrifying beauty’.

Eliasson is also known for his Ice Watch series (2014–18), which saw him transport monumental blocks of glacial ice to cities around the world to raise awareness for climate change.

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

Colour experiment no. 15 (large inside spiral)

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Schinkel Sonne (Schinkel Sun)

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

The Landscape Series

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

The Inner Cave Series

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Endless quasi column (happy)

OLAFUR ELIASSON (NÉ EN 1967)

Colour vision kaleidoscope

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

The Landscape Series

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

The sunset series

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

The Glacier Mill Series

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Color Motoric Entrance

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

National Career Lamp

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

The Moss Series

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

The Hekla Twilight Series

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

Untitled (Mountains)

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Crystal gate lamp

Olafur Eliasson (B. 1967)

The Hole Series

Olafur Eliasson (B. 1967)

Sunset Kaleidoscope

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

Fivefold dodecahedron lamp

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

The Earthquake Series

Olafur Eliasson (B. 1967)

Spring puddle series

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Your Intuitive Sky

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

Trollakrokar Series

Olafur Eliasson (B. 1967)

Negative quasi bricks

Olafur Eliasson (B. 1967)

Thirteen purple to grey movie

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

Trollakrokar series

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Untitled (Hot Water)

OLAFUR ELIASSON (B. 1967)

Your mutual appreciation compass

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Negative Quasi Bricks

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Negative Quasi Bricks

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

Untitled (from the Iceland series)

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967)

The Cartographic Series II