A major Olafur Eliasson retrospective at Palazzo Strozzi
From 22 September 2022 to 22 January 2023 the first major exhibition ever held in Italy on one of the most original contemporary artists
From 22 September 2022 to 23 January 2023, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi presents Nel tuo tempo (In Your Time), a major exhibition that involves all the Renaissance rooms of the palazzo through the works of Olafur Eliasson, one of the most original and visionary contemporary artists, whose multifaceted production has embraced installations, paintings, sculptures, photography and moving images throughout his career (Here all the must-see autumn exhibitions in Florence).
From 1989 to 1995, he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1995, he moved to Berlin where he founded the Olafur Eliasson Studio that today consists of a large team of artisans, architects, archivists, researchers, administrators, chefs, programmers, art historians and specialised technicians.
Now Olafur Eliasson’s empirical and poetic world arrives at Palazzo Strozzi with the largest exhibition ever dedicated to him in Italy. Nel Tuo Tempo is a fascinating collection of his older works and newer creations, including a large sitespecific installation in the courtyard and a special digital art project created through VR technology presented to the public for the first time from 22 September 2022 to 22 January 2023.
“Olafur visited Palazzo Strozzi for the first time in 2015 – says Arturo Galansino, Director General of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation and curator of the exhibition – and was enamoured with the Renaissance architecture. That was the beginning of a long relationship between him and the 15th-century palace, a complex connection whose meaning can be summarised in today’s exhibition. Through his older works and newer creations that make up the exhibition, the palace becomes the place where its architecture and its history merge; art and people, space and, of course, time as the name of the exhibition implies”.
“Nel Tuo Tempo is the encounter between works of art, visitors and Palazzo Strozzi. This magnificent Renaissance building – says Olafur Eliasson – has survived throughout the centuries, and welcomes us in the 21st century, not just as a simple repository but as an essential part of the exhibition itself”.
The starting point of the exhibition is Under the weather (2022), a site-specific work for the public space of Palazzo Strozzi's courtyard, consisting of a large 11-metre elliptical structure suspended 8 metres above the ground, which creates in the eyes of visitors an effect of visual interference, similar to the flickering of a screen. In fact, the installation proposes what is known as the moiré effect, which, in this case, is used to destabilise the rigid orthogonal architecture of Palazzo Strozzi, questioning the perception of a stable and unchanging historical structure. As visitors move around the courtyard, the installation continually transforms in their eyes, interacting, through movement, with each one individually according to his or her position. The elliptical shape of the panel itself seems to transform with the position of the viewer, so that the structure can appear circular, creating a hypnotic atmosphere typical of the visual ambiguity that has fascinated Eliasson for decades and inspired many of his works.
From the courtyard, the route continues inside the building where Eliasson's direct dialogue with the architecture is revealed through the use of artificial light, fleeting shadows, reflections, moiré effects and intense colours. The building is not merely a container or a backdrop, but becomes a co-producer of the works, a creative instrument that interacts with the visitors' perception. In the first three rooms of the Piano Nobile, Eliasson confronts the windows of the building, playing between reality and representation, presence and absence, in an alternation of lights, colours and shadows.
By proposing solutions that appear similar to theatrical sets or film sets, the artist invites us to perceive architecture in a new way, destabilising its traditional and established understanding. Eliasson intervenes minimally in the rooms, nevertheless creating strong and engaging atmospheres in which the protagonist is the relationship between external and internal space, typical of Palazzo Strozzi and its large windows overlooking both the courtyard and the street. The lights make the irregularities of the material visible: bubbles, scratches, dust highlight its materiality, allowing visitors to become aware of glass as a membrane separating the interior from the exterior. Two works in the exhibition route recall the theme of the circle and the ellipse introduced in the courtyard. How do we live together (2019) consists of a large metal arch that diagonally invades the space of a room in which the ceiling is covered by a mirrored surface.
The installation Solar compression (2016), on the other hand, consists of a circular disc suspended, mirrored on both sides, in constant motion, emanating a yellow light from within it that floods the room.
That same light is the basis of the installation Room for one colour (1997) where in a totally empty space the viewers' perception is altered by the immersion in the light of single-frequency lamps that transforms all colours into shades of grey, yellow and black, while accentuating the viewers' perception of details. Along the way, one also encounters an iconic work from Eliasson's career, Beauty (1993). The installation confronts a spectacular rainbow in which beams of white light are broken up into the colours of the visible spectrum through a curtain of fog.
Emblematic of Eliasson's work and evidence of his research on vision as an action of fragmentation and complexity of thought is instead Firefly double-polyhedron sphere experiment (2020), a large polyhedron of green, orange, yellow, cyan and pink coloured glass that stems from the artist's interest in the themes of geometry and light. In the same room, the work dialogues with Colour spectrum kaleidoscope (2003).
The exhibition continues in the spaces of the Strozzina with works that continue the reflection between space, time and perception. In these spaces, too, the works re-propose the themes of Platonic solids and the moiré effect: Fivefold dodecahedron lamp (2006) consists of a dodecahedron containing a highly reflective glass tetrahedron, while Eye see you (2006) creates slight moiré effects. In addition, seven city plants (2018), reconstructed into geometric shapes, reflect daily substituted local newspapers, presenting considerations on time, the exhibition's central theme. The protagonist of the Strozzina's rooms is a new work by the artist using VR (Virtual Reality) technology entitled Your view matter (2022), in which the moiré effect invades the Palazzo's courtyard.