Olafur Eliasson’s riverbed transforms Louisiana

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Rock-strewn, site-specific work unveiled in Danish museum

Riverbed, photo by Anders Sune Berg, courtesy of Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is probably the Danish museum’s most technically ambitious. It must also be one of its most enigmatic. Mathias Ussing Seeberg, who organised the show with the museum’s director Poul Erik Tøjner, kept the Danish-Icelandic artist’s large-scale work a surprise until the show opened this week (until 4 January 2015). “It’s important that people come and experience the work without too many preconceptions,” Seeberg says.

The exhibition contains some of the classic elements of Eliasson’s work: nature, site-specificity and bodily experience, but it also marks a new departure. “Even connoisseurs of Eliasson’s work are going to be surprised,” Seeberg says.

The curator revealed ahead of the show that the work’s title was “Riverbed” and Eliasson’s “landscape” would fill the museum’s south wing. The point of departure for the exhibition is the history of the museum, its location by the sea and its unusual meandering architecture—the museum was originally a private villa built in 1855. Eliasson has his own long-standing history with Louisiana. He first showed his work there in a group exhibition in 1997, followed by three more.

In addition to the site-specific ­landscape, Eliasson’s first solo exhibition at the museum also includes two other sections. One will present a reconfigured version of the artist’s 2003 work Model Room, an installation of chipboard display cabinets filled with models, maquettes and prototypes; the other will feature three videos. Although these works are older, Eliasson will be presenting them in new ways, the ­curator says.

Seeberg says he hopes that Eliasson’s most recent work will prove less popular than The Weather Project, his blockbusting 2003 transformation of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall into a foggy sunset under a mirrored ceiling, the work for which he is best known. “Our museum would collapse and fall into the sea,” he says. Located in Humlebaek, a small town 25 miles north of Copenhagen, Seeberg expects the show to have a broad appeal. “People who are perhaps less moved by art will ­appreciate the experience,” he says, adding cryptically: “You are going to have to be in it to grasp it—that’s if you can grasp it once you’re there.”

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