Collecting sunshine, connecting the world (Part 4)

Since 1997, his critically acclaimed solo shows have appeared in major museums around the world.

Olafur Eliasson

Written by Marianne Lentz

Since 1997, his critically acclaimed solo shows have appeared in major museums around the world, such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; and the Venice Biennale.

Established in 1995, his Berlin studio today numbers about eighty craftsmen, architects, and art historians.

From 2009 to 2014, Eliasson ran the Institut für Raumexperimente as a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, and in 2014 he became an adjunct professor at the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In 2012, Eliasson founded the social business Little Sun, together with engineer Frederik Ottesen, to produce and distribute solar lamps for use in off-grid communities. Eliasson lives and works in Copenhagen and Berlin.

3 selected works

Little Sun

The Little Sun project was founded in 2012 by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen to affect significant global change in the area of sustainable energy access – specifically to get clean, affordable, solar light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide living without electricity in off-grid areas.

The project’s first product, the Little Sun solar LED lamp, is a personal, portable, easy-to-use light source so people in off-grid areas can light their nights safely.

Little Sun is at once a solar lamp, a work of art, a social business, a global project, a way to connect the world through sharing light. Rather than a short-term fix of donating lamps to an off-grid region, the project focuses on the longer-term goal of building profitable off-grid businesses that distribute Little Sun light at locally affordable prices.

Little Sun works with sales agents in off-grid areas to kick-start their businesses, providing business starter kits (with an initial seed capital of Little Sun lamps to sell on credit), micro-entrepreneurial training, and ongoing support to those who need it.

Little Sun currently has distribution in over 11 African countries: Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa – as well as in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Time-sensitive activity, Modern Art Museum, Gebre Kristos Desta Centre, Addis Ababa, 2015

Olafur Eliasson’s first solo exhibition in Addis Ababa featured works revolving around concepts like light, orientation, mirroring, and ephemerality – topics that have informed Eliasson’s practice for years.

The exhibition came about through Eliasson’s long-term engagement with Ethiopia and, in particular, the city of Addis Ababa, a relationship that has intensified over the last decade.

For the show, Eliasson collaborated with local wicker workers to create a series of sculptural lamps, "The complete sphere lamp".

It was exhibited along with other new works and seminal older works, including "Colour space embracer", 2005, and "Yellow corridor".

Moon, Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson

Moon is the first collaboration between Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson.

A web-based artwork, Moon is a shared platform that invites users to leave their own mark, drawn or written, on a virtual moon’s surface.

Since its launch at the Falling Walls conference in November 2013, this interactive lunar landscape has amassed over 80 000 entries, growing from a blank white canvas to a dense collection of diverse responses.

Each contribution has created a small but distinctive change to a developing landscape – highlighting the importance of individual expression among collective participation.

Moon’s open call for creative input is a powerful statement about the potential for ideas to connect people across vast distances and break through political, social, and geographical boundaries in the Internet age.


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