Olafur Eliasson (Icelandic: Ólafur Elíasson; born 1967) is an Icelandic-Danish artist known for sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. In 1995 he established Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin, a laboratory for spatial research. Olafur represented Denmark at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and later that year installed The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London.
Olafur has engaged in a number of projects in public space, including the intervention Green river, carried out in various cities between 1998 and 2001; the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007, London, a temporary pavilion designed with the Norwegian architect Kjetil Thorsen; and The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by Public Art Fund in 2008. He was a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts from 2009 to 2014 and is an adjunct professor at the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa since 2014.
Olafur Eliasson was born in Copenhagen in 1967 to Elías Hjörleifsson and Ingibjörg Olafsdottir. His parents had emigrated to Copenhagen from Iceland in 1966, he to find work as a cook, and she as a seamstress. He was 8 when his parents separated; he lived with his mother and his stepfather, a stockbroker. His father, then an artist, moved back to Iceland, where their family spent summers and holidays. At 15 he had his first solo show, exhibiting landscape drawings and gouaches at a small alternative gallery in Denmark. However, Olafur considered his "break-dancing" during the mid-1980s to be his first artworks. With two school friends, he formed a group — they called themselves the Harlem Gun Crew — and they performed at clubs and dance halls for four years, eventually winning the Scandinavian championship.
Olafur studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 1989 to 1995. In 1990, when he was awarded a travel budget by the Royal Danish Academy, Olafur went to New York where he started working as a studio assistant for artist Christian Eckhart in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and reading texts on phenomenology and Gestalt psychology.
Olafur received his degree from the academy in 1995, after having moved in 1993 to Cologne for a year, and then to Berlin, where he has since maintained a studio. First located in a three-story former train depot right next door to the Hamburger Bahnhof, the studio moved to a former brewery in Prenzlauer Berg in 2008.
In 1996, Olafur started working with Einar Thorsteinn, an architect and geometry expert 25 years his senior as well as a former friend of Buckminster Fuller. The first piece they created called 8900054, was a stainless-steel dome 30 feet (9.1 m) wide and 7 feet (2.1 m) high, designed to be seen as if it were growing from the ground. Though the effect is an illusion, the mind has a hard time believing that the structure is not part of a much grander one developing from deep below the surface. Thorsteinn's knowledge of geometry and space has been integrated into Olafur's artistic production, often seen in his geometric lamp works as well as his pavilions, tunnels and camera obscura projects.
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