@ Tate Modern, London, UK from July 2019 until January 2020


Olafur Eliasson, born in 1967, is an exciting and accessible contemporary artist, who was brought up in Denmark and Iceland. In the 1990s he moved to Berlin, Germany, where he established the Studio Olafur Eliasson. In 2003 I visited his evocative Weather Project , which filled the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. I remember visitors sprawled on their backs under a simulated glowing sun, relaxing in a hazy fog.

The exhibition In Real Life is a retrospective covering Eliasson’s career from the early 1990s to the present, and displaying works that ‘elicit and perturb our impressions of colour, light, sound and material’ (Michelle Kuo, MOMA).

I visited the exhibition with my children (aged 10 to 15). It is very much an exhibition to go to with someone else. My youngest daughter was in a ferocious mood, so it didn’t go entirely as I’d planned, but the interactive elements lent themselves to a family day out, and my son, in particular, really engaged with the exhibition and had a great time.

My eldest sneered a bit at Window Projection (1990), which she wrote off as student juvenalia. Beauty (1993), however, shown below, we found really effective: a soaking wet curtain of mist, in a darkened room, through which magical rainbows appear to materialise by means of the effective projection of light.

The exhibition also features a wall of living moss (Moss Wall, 1994), and a 39 metre tunnel suffused with glowing misty light (Din blinde passager or Your blind passenger, 2010), which we had to feel our way along. The exhibition was crowded with excited children, so any contemplative sense was lost from this experience. One (positive!) review I read, however, genuinely likened the process of passing through the tunnel to how the writer imagines it is to die. Presumably they visited in term time!

Eliasson is interested in stimulating the senses, but also in documenting environmental degradation. Over two decades he has taken a series of photographs which details the changing Icelandic landscape. (My copy of the Extinction Rebellion handbook arrives today…)

In Real Life is definitely worth a visit, or probably even two: one with noisy family members, one at opening or closing time with a quiet friend.

Eliasson hasn’t dislodged my favourite Danish artist from the no 1 spot though. The wonderful Vilhelm Hammershøi will always be one of my favourite artists of all time.

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