Home Magazine Life by Olafur Eliasson at Fondation Beyeler

Site-specific installation Life by the art world celebrity Olafur Eliasson opened this week at the Fondation Beyeler and can be visited all day long, at all hours. 

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Art, architecture and nature are harmoniously combined and almost melt in Fondation Beyeler, near Basel in Switzerland, thanks to Life, the incredible installation by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. "Life presents a model for a future landscape. It's hospitable" Eliasson said.

The site-specific installation is a collective work of art that Eliasson has created in the form of a prickly experiment: it is "a vital, free, thinking space" - as Sam Keller, director of the Fondation Beyeler, has defined it. Life reflects on the relationship between man and nature, inviting the public to interact directly with the planet. There are plants of many different species that, through colors, smells, moisture and sounds, activate the sensitivity of the audience.


Fondation Beyeler, Life Olafur Eliasson, 2021. Photo Credits: Mark Niedermann.


For over 25 years, Olafur Eliasson’s work has explored perception, movement, embodied experience, and feelings of self. Art, for him, is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world. Life follows this poetics, conquers the spaces of the Swiss Foundation and make them its own. 

Water is the main character of this outstanding exhibition: the signature of The Weather Project (2003, Tate Modern, London) has removed one side of the Renzo Piano-designed building (with the architect’s blessing) and let the pond—usually separated from the climate-controlled interior by a large glass wall—into the museum. Visitors can navigate the waters, which are up to 80cm deep, using a series of walkways that run in and out of the building. 

Eliasson has moreover dyed the water a fluorescent green using uranine, an organic dye that is commonly used to observe water currents, and which the artist has used previously for his Green River work (1998) where he dyed rivers in cities such as Stockholm, Los Angeles and Tokyo. Besides, the green pond is rich in vegetation: "The plants in Life - dwarf water lilies, Irish bellflowers, aquatic ferns and many others - were carefully chosen by my dear friend Günther Vogt, an architect and landscape designer. In the past, Günther and I have collaborated on several art projects that explored the permeable and fine line between nature and culture, always keeping in mind that we human beings are part of larger systems," Eliasson wrote. 


Fondation Beyeler, Life Olafur Eliasson, 2021. Photo Credits: Pati Grabowicz.


The artist has therefore linked scientific knowledge and art for the Swiss exhibition by drawing inspiration from the contributions of numerous artists and biologists (their conversations are collected on the Fondation Beyeler website dedicated to the exhibition). Among them is Natasha Mayers, anthropologist and dancer.

The show is open 24 hours a day until 11 July 2021. At night the interior is lit up with blue light and there are many more chances to say hello to small animals such as bats, insects, birds. For those unable to visit it, there is a live stream of the exhibition using cameras fitted with different optical filters that “allude to non-human perspective


Cover image: Fondation Beyeler, Life Olafur Eliasson, 2021. Photo Credits: Mark Niedermann.

Written by Giulia Caruso

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