Olafur Eliasson: 2014 Recipient

The Council for the Arts at MIT is pleased to announce that Olafur Eliasson is the recipient of the 2014, 40th Anniversary Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, which includes a $100,000 cash prize, a campus residency and a gala held in his honor. The award celebrates innovative talents in all arts disciplines and is one of the most generous cultural honors in the United States.

Renowned for the multi-faceted practice of his studio in Berlin, Eliasson creates ambitious public art projects, large-scale installations, architectural pavilions, major art exhibitions, spatial experiments, sensory experiences, and a distinctive art and social business enterprise — Little Sun, a solar powered lamp that is “a work of art that works in life.” Eliasson’s creative practice above all reveals that art shapes life in a way that transforms reality.

The official announcement was made at the Council’s 41st annual meeting at MIT on October 24, 2013, and Eliasson will be presented with the award at a gala in his honor on March 13, 2014.

About Olafur Eliasson
Olafur Eliasson (IS/DK) was born in 1967. Since 1997, he has exhibited worldwide with major solo shows, such as The curious garden, at Kunsthalle Basel in 1997, The mediated motion, at Kunsthaus Bregenz in 2001, and Chaque matin je me sens différent – chaque soir je me sens le même, at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2002. He represented Denmark at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and later that year installed The weather project at Tate Modern, London. Take your time: Olafur Eliasson, a survey exhibition organised by SFMoMA in 2007, traveled until 2010 to various venues, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Your chance encounter at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, in 2009, included the outdoor work Colour activity house. Innen Stadt Aussen (Inner City Out), at Martin-Gropius-Bau in 2010, involved interventions across Berlin as well as in the museum. Similarly, in 2011, Seu corpo da obra (Your body of work), engaged with three institutions around São Paulo – SESC Pompeia, SESC Belenzinho, and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo – and featured ten site-specific installations.

Eliasson’s projects in public space include Green river, carried out in various cities between 1998 and 2001, and the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007, designed together with Kjetil Thorsen and temporarily situated in Kensington Gardens, London, in 2007. The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by Public Art Fund, were installed on shorelines of Manhattan and Brooklyn during the summer of 2008. Your rainbow panorama, a 150-metre-long circular walkway with colored glass panes situated on top of ARoS Museum in Aarhus, Denmark, opened in May 2011. Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, for which Eliasson created the façade in collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects, was inaugurated in August 2011 and awarded the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award in 2013.

Together with engineer Frederik Ottesen, Eliasson developed the Little Sun solar-powered light for use in areas of the world without access to electricity. Little Sun was launched at Tate Modern as part of the London 2012 Festival and has been presented at events around the world.

Established in 1995, his studio today numbers about seventy craftsmen, architects, geometers and art historians. In April 2009, as a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, Olafur Eliasson founded the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments), a five-year experiment in arts education located in his studio in Berlin.


Olafur Eliasson’s remarks upon receiving the award:
“Through abstraction, we shape the world. Through art, we translate thoughts, intuitions, feelings, and intentions into actions that transform reality. It is therefore a great honour for me to receive the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, an institution with a long tradition of turning thinking into doing.”