Olafur Eliasson Makes the Impossible Possible in Versailles with Stunning Installations

May 24, 2016

Olafur Eliasson in Versailles, transforming the palace’s 17th-century gardens into the place that can not only be seen and admired but explored and investigated as well! The renowned Danish-Icelandic artist presented his astounding installations that will be displayed from June 7th to October 30th on Monday. Eliasson will present three water-related installations in the beautiful gardens of Versailles, one of which will create a breathtaking waterfall in front of the palace, and it will represent the never realized vision of Andre Le Notre who was the chief gardener of King Louis XIV. Olafur Eliasson would like to turn Versailles into the place that will inspire a more active kind of visit, instead of encouraging the ongoing experience of a passive, and “historically objectifying” kind. The waterfall will present the attempt to “finalize, to make the impossible possible, to make the dreams come true”, said the artist.

Olafur Eliasson Versailles studio  press  france home 2016
Blocks of ice from Greenland in front of the Pantheon Credit Guillaume Horcajuelo European Pressphoto Agency via nytimes.com

Olafur Eliasson in Versailles

Other installations that Olafur Eliasson will place in the gardens of Versailles include a circle of mist in L’Étoile, that will change as the weather changes, as well as the blocks of ice and dust and rock debris that remain when the glacier retracts in La Colonnade. For the last year’s climate conference in Paris, Eliasson put the blocks of ice from Greenland in front of the Pantheon, and this year, the installation will draw attention to the ongoing and the often disregarded issue of global warming. Eliasson said that this installation will offer a commentary on the role of the garden as the symbol of king’s fertility, the fertility at the expense of the society. Inside the palace, Olafur Eliasson will employ “subtle spatial interventions”, integrated into the baroque architecture of Versailles, so the visitors will have to explore the whole place if they want to see every piece of art there. Some of these works that will disorient the space will be mirrored, and remind of a kaleidoscope.

Olafur Eliasson Versailles studio  press  france home 2016
Versailles gardens view from Pareterre d'eau via artfixdaily.com

The Exploration of the Palace

The Palace of Versailles is by no means a small place. Even with a guide one can easily get overwhelmed by the vast beauty of Baroque that the place has to offer. Which makes the Eliasson’s story of the exploration of the palace even more fascinating. The artist investigated the place at night with only a flashlight as a source of light, which made him think of the palace as a creatively “very vibrant” place. He works with natural phenomena, he uses light, he employs psychology, dematerialization, and ephemera in his works. Eliasson is not ashamed to say that his art can be viewed as baroque in a way since the baroque art had no problem with trying to influence people and manipulating their senses and minds. With that thought, the visitors will especially enjoy The Gaze of Versailles – two golden spheres that will be placed on brass stalks emerging from the wall, as soon as the artist finds the place for this piece.

Olafur Eliasson Versailles studio  press  france home 2016
The sign in front of the vandalized Anish Kapoor's Dirty Corner via dailymail.co.uk

Versailles Controversy and Olafur Eliasson’s Vision

Last year, the exhibition by the British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor caused raging controversy over the sculpture that had a sexual connotation. The large-scale sculpture entitled Dirty Corner became known as the “queen’s vagina”, prompting the debate of whose genitalia it represents and is the “owner” of it Marie Antoinette. Later that year, the sculpture was vandalized with anti-Semitic messages not once, but twice, which led a Versailles politician Fabien Bouglé to file a complaint to the local public prosecutor against Anish Kapoor for choosing not to remove the hateful graffiti from his sculpture. We will see if something similar will happen to the Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at Versailles, for the artist is not ashamed to criticize the society and present the cold, hard truth to the viewers. His vision is to turn the palace into the place which can be explored, not only for its rich history and meaning but for the openness towards the contemporary works of art that sometimes do not please the hearts of each visitor. The president of the palace of Versailles, Catherine Pegard said that these contemporary art exhibitions will show that the palace is not stuck in the past and that it is a place that can be enjoyed even by the generations that love contemporary art and modern technologies.

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All images are for illustrative purposes only.
Featured image: Olafur Eliasson in 2015 with an installation at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris Credit Yoan Valat European Pressphoto Agency via nytimes.com

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