Entering Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, I found myself shocked by the incredible humbleness and nordic simplicity of its architecture and aesthetic. Clean, flawless, respectful and welcoming.
Louisiana is currently hosting the latest solo show from celebrated Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, titled Riverbed. Gladly, I was honoured to receive a guided tour of the show by Mathias Ussing Seeberg, the curator of the exhibition itself that was able to provide me with some priceless insights.
Eliasson and Louisiana have had many collaboration in the past 20 years with a number of the artist’s works shown in the past as part of bigger exhibitions but never as a solo show. “While planning the show”, Seeberg explained me, “we immediately knew it couldn’t be a retrospective exhibition of his work. From the start, Olafur wanted to create a new, radical, site-specific piece that would work as a personal homage to the museum itself”.
The main work, Riverbed, took over the entire south wing. The piece consist of a geological detour, a lost landscape relocated within the museum’s wall to induce movement and departure. A familiar landscape filled with rocks, dust and a riverbed. The piece revisit notions of art and find itself in a continuous dialogue with Louisiana’s architecture, questioning its secular entity, rediscovering overlooked spaces and re-imagining its core structure. Seeberg giggles a bit while explaining how “people often seems to be deluded by the absence of a Grand Finale”.
All the rocks, stones and soil have been sourced and transported from Iceland, rocks that Eliasson like to call “sparrow rocks” being the most common rocks on the planet. The lighting is highly controlled by a series of sensor able to detect external light’s intensity while adjusting the artificial lights to maintain a constant light experience. Wandering through the different rooms you find yourself following the primordial sound of water while seeking for some sort of beginning or explanation of the unfamiliar familiarity of the artwork.
The show is built upon movement and departure, constantly requiring the visitors to walk, discover, search and experience the museum’s architecture and landscape in a whole new light. The show does not unfold in the conventional consecutive fashion, instead works are scattered across the wholeness of the museum, inducing visitors to fully appreciate the beautiful gardens, lakes, trees and sculptures.
The second part of Eliasson’s exhibition comprises three films as well as the Model Room where you can appreciate a series of models developed by Eliasson studio throughout 20 years of practice. This interesting collection of unfinished artwork represent an invaluable insight on the practice of one of the most prolific artist of recent years. Here you can appreciate concepts, mistakes, failures, research projects, ideas, creation, frustrations, artistic perversion and prototypes leading to world famous artworks.
I’d like to conclude with a small thought on Louisiana and how it represents an exception of sobriety amongst modern Contemporary Art Museums across the globe that way too often tend to be a narcissistic architectural exercise embodying ideals of institutional power and artistic authority. These often oil-funded institutions, represents symbols to be venerated as the height of society and culture, take as an example the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Tate Modern in London, MACBA in Barcelona, Museum Pompidou in Paris, or MOMA in New York. Their architecture and design inspire both awe and reverence as well as intimidation. Louisiana, on the contrary provides the perfect environment for a peaceful, relaxing and not-so-pretentious experience, kind of unique in the current art world.
If you happen to be in Copenhagen in the next couple of months make sure allow a day to visit this unique museum, Olafur Eliasson exhibition runs until January 5, but there are many more exciting events planned for 2015.