When Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson presented his fifteen million dollars waterfall project in New York four years ago, spectators were amazed by the sudden appearance of one of nature’s wonders in the centre of one of the world’s largest and most famous cities.
The four waterfalls, each between ninety to one hundred and twenty feet in size, were displayed for nearly four months around Manhattan and became such a tourist attraction that hotels offered special “waterfall packages” and travel agencies held special “waterfall excursions”.
Back in 2003, Eliasson had already turned London´s prestigious Tate Modern into an amazing weather-display, with a gigantic sun as the focal point of the exhibition. And in 2011, he again put nature’s beauty at the forefront of the art scene, with a huge rainbow mounted on the top of the Danish museum Aros in the city of Aarhus.
Master of the weather
One can certainly claim that Eliasson is a true master of the weather. Yet he sees his artistic work a little differently. “My real subject is people. I am ultimately fascinated by the question: What is reality for us? We have all learned that there is no single true reality. But how do we get our bearings, and how are we aligned? Even the idea of a reality is only a construction, after all,” as he pointed out in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel in 2008.
“Reality is confusing. That's what I want to demonstrate. There is no fixed interpretation of my works. Everyone experiences and understands them in their own way,” he added.
Olafur Eliasson was born in Copenhagen in 1967 and studied at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 1989 until he opened his studio in Berlin in 1995, which he describes as “a laboratory for spatial research”.
Eliasson soon went on to exhibit various works, many of them dealing with and consisting of natural elements such as light, water and air.
Today Eliasson’s studio in Berlin employs around 30 architects, engineers, craftsmen, assistants and on top of that two chefs to feed his team. Due to his success Eliasson needs a big team. As he pointed out to Der Spiegel: “I can't even handle five percent of my inquiries. In the past, I just turned down offers I didn't like, but today time constraints even prevent me from agreeing to proposals that interest me deeply.”
Apart from his work as an artist, Eliasson is also a professor at Universität der Künste Berlin. He lives in Copenhagen with his wife and two children.