Home Magazine Olafur Eliasson at Bilbao

Museums and art spaces are reopening their doors in and around Spain,  so is the exhibition dedicated to the artist Olafur Eliasson (Copenhagen, 1967) . After an exhibition that has literally invaded the rooms of London's Tate Modern with a collection of over 9 million pounds, the "In Real Life" exhibition, created in collaboration with the Guggenheim in Bilbao, is now staged in the Basque capital, with some small variation.

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Very famous for its immersive installations, capable of involving all the senses, this exhibition aims to tell through thirty pieces (without a precise chronological thread), thirty years of multidisciplinary activity. Curated by Lucía Aguirre, who collaborated on the project together with Mark Godfrey (the London edition curator), the exhibition brings together debut works from the first half of the 1990s (such as the poetic Window projection from 1990) or Wannabee (from 1991 ) that Olafur creates in an entirely experimental way in the bar where he worked as a young man; and also the very recent "Color Experiment" (of 2019) or "The presence of absence pavilion" (bronze of 2019), which ideally recalls the large installations-performances made with the Greenland ice in Copenhagen in 2014, or during the Paris Cop21, during the following year. But it is the passage through the deforming mirror cylinder of "Your Spiral view" (2002), the alienating optical effects of the room illuminated by single-frequency lamps (Room for one color, 1997) or the wonderful vision of Beauty (1993) that would make the visit, a strong and intense sensory experience of the exhibition.

Read more about Olafur Eliasson's contribute to Sustainable Art and Design!


Olafur Eliasson, In real life, exhibition view. Courtesy Guggenheim Museum Bilbao


Eliasson has always exploited the surprise effect, by inviting the public to interact with his optical games or natural experiments; he really wants to stimulate us to reflect on the apparent world simplicity, often made up of dust and water, lights and shadows, colours and geometries, mirrors and reflections. But not everything that seems immediately or evident is always so easy in understanding. The reality is sometimes (indeed very often, according to the artist) pure artifice: this is demonstrated by the waterfall recreated outside the museum (from the Waterfall series, 2019, but started in the 1990s), by using an eleven-meter scaffold height from which a pump throws forcefully into the lake below the water, which resounds in the air as if we were on the alpine slopes. Visitors in the first room are welcomed by a large transparent box (Model Room, 2003) which houses around 450 models or maquettes of artistic, architectural or scientific projects, dated between 1996 and 2014, that is, before the advent of 3D. The quantity and variety of research that Eliasson has faced for years in his Berlin studio is surprising, together with a hundred collaborators from varied specializations, such as architects, artisans, biologists, art historians and even cooks.


Olafur Eliasson, In real life, exhibition view. Courtesy Guggenheim Museum Bilbao


Thanks to Guggenheim peculiar architecture of the space (conceived by the architect Frank Gehry more than twenty years ago), compared to London exhibition the show layout has seen several changes, including the creation of a real room (Your atmospheric color atlas, 2009) in which the visitor immerses themself as in the polluted atmosphere of our metropolis, not without a certain feeling of unease. Also in the case of the work "Your uncertain shadow, color, from" 2010, a coloured shadow on a white wall placed inside an empty room that when a visitor enters appears on the scene to project and magnify every slightest movement. In short, the Danish artist of Icelandic origins - who lives and works between Berlin and Copenhagen - has the gift of transforming contemporary art into an attractive individual or collective experience, at stake also capable of making us reflect on important issues of our contemporaneity.

Cover image: Olafur Eliasson, In real life, exhibition view. Courtesy Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Written by Elisabetta Rastelli

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