Olafur Eliasson Receives 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

  • CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts
  • /
  • February 12, 2014

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Olafur Eliasson, Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011. ARoS Arhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Courtesy of the artist.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced that Olafur Eliasson, 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT recipient, will be at MIT on March 12­-14, 2014, to accept the prestigious honor. A distinctive feature of the award ­­ beyond the $100,000 prize, public programs and gala ­­ is a residency in which the artist interacts with MIT students, faculty and staff in a range of academic disciplines on campus.

Eliasson’s collaboration with MIT focuses upon his art and social business enterprise Little Sun, a portable, solar powered lamp, which he calls “a work of art that works in life.” Renowned for his large­-scale public art projects and architectural works, Eliasson’s Little Sun is perhaps his most ambitious work of art to date, as it forms the architecture of a vast global network, bringing together people, places and resources towards the common goal of more equitably distributing the world’s power, both literally and figuratively.

The artist’s activities on campus will center around discussions of sustainable development, community engagement, design, product engineering and social entrepreneurship in developing economies. He will engage with the MIT Energy Initiative (MITei), a multidisciplinary, Institute-wide research program working to find secure, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable energy sources, the MIT D­Lab (Development through Dialogue, Design and Dissemination), the Sloan School of Management; the MIT Center for Civic Media, and the MIT Museum, among others.

Uniting MIT’s pioneering research with Eliasson’s attention to the sensory and subjective, the residency reconceptualizes the field of sustainable development beyond the merely functional. The project asks: How can we create an affordable global energy system that factors in human emotion, creativity, and desire? Connecting an acclaimed artist such as Eliasson with MIT’s rich culture of innovation presents a profound opportunity to radically expand the discussion around issues of sustainable energy as well as collectively imagine new and inventive solutions for the future.

Campus Residency Events and Programs

Public Programs
Olafur Eliasson Artist Lecture
“Holding hands with the sun”
Thursday, March 13 I 5:00pm
MIT Lecture Hall 10­-250 (MIT Building 10, 2nd floor)
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Free and open to the public but reservations strongly recommended: http://artsm.it/eliasson

Second Fridays at the MIT Museum
“The Art and Science of Solar Lights”
Olafur Eliasson with Harald Quintus-­Bosz, Chief Technology Officer, Cooper Perkins
Friday, March 14 I 6:00pm
MIT Museum, Building N51
265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Free with MIT Museum admission

Little Sun installations around campus
The public and the MIT community can experience an installation of over one hundred Little Suns at the MIT Museum. Also on display in the lobby of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Building E15 is a four­-channel installation of videos about light, life, and Little Sun made by eighteen filmmakers from all over the world in response to an invitation from Eliasson.

A private gala will be held on the MIT campus in which Eliasson will be presented the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The gala’s honorary hosts include diplomats from Denmark, Iceland and Germany, Agnes Gund of MoMA PS1, Anne Hawley, director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and others.

About Little Sun
Little Sun is a portable solar-­powered LED lamp, developed by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, to provide clean, affordable, reliable light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to electricity.

About Olafur Eliasson
Olafur Eliasson represented Denmark at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and later that year installed The weather project at Tate Modern, London, which was seen by more than two million people. Take your time: Olafur Eliasson, a survey exhibition organized in 2007 by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), traveled until 2010, stopping in New York at MoMA and the Dallas Museum of Art. Seu corpo da obra (Your body of work, 2011) engaged with three institutions around São Paulo and spread out into the vast metropolis. Projects in public space include The New York City Waterfalls, commissioned by Public Art Fund in 2008 with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Harpa, the Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, for which Eliasson created a crystalline façade, was inaugurated in August 2011 and received the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies Van Der Rohe Award in 2013. Little Sun, developed with Frederik Ottesen, was shown at Tate Modern as part of the London 2012 Festival and at Common Ground, La Biennale di Venezia: 13th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice.

Eliasson’s extraordinary work encompasses a broad range of creative practices spanning art, science, and psychology, supported by a prodigious studio. He has made strikingly original contributions to public art, architecture, and, most recently, social entrepreneurship. In Eliasson’s enormously popular installation, The weather project, an immense artificial sun produced a sui generis immersive environment, transforming the cavernous halls of London’s Tate Modern with ethereal light and fog. Through such philosophical investigations of light, color, atmosphere, and water, Eliasson probes the nature of space and human perception.

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 five­year experiment in arts education located in his studio in Berlin.

About the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT
Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT. The Award recognizes innovative talents in any arts discipline and offers its recipient a $100,000 cash prize and a campus residency. The selection process reflects MIT’s commitment to risk taking, problem solving, and the idea of connecting creative minds across disciplines. The Award honors Eugene McDermott, co-founder of Texas Instruments and long­time friend and benefactor of MIT.

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